Happy New Year! Or, if you’ve been in Edinburgh lately, happy Officially-Approved McHogmanay Bellsfest, presented In association with Haggis McBurgers Ltd., a subsidiary of Funcorp International Inc. (all rights reserved).
The Disneyfication of Auld Reekie reached new depths last week with a public debate about whether it’s OK for people to apply to a private company for permission to access their own homes using public streets.
Here’s my hot take on this: it bloody well is not OK.
Some Edinburgh residents expressed concerns about having their neighbourhoods turned into a theme park by big business.
In response, the authorities, business and, disturbingly, a prominent Edinburgh newspaper suggested the economy is more important than their quality of life. Nonsense.
Already, Edinburgh can be a difficult place to live. In August, for example, many residents simply leave.
The alternative is, when popping out for milk, to be accosted by some braying Tarquin who’s presenting free-form improv in a phone box for 70 quid a ticket.
I couldn’t live with it. I’d be up before the beak for punching jugglers before you could say “jolly authentic Scotch experience, Tabitha”.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has become a Frankenstein’s monster of street drinking, fireworks and celebrity guests that make you chirp: “Oh, I remember him!” The head of organising company Underbelly has pledged to talk with locals in search of balance, which is encouraging but also easy to say when you have a licence to print money.
I’m not being the fun police. I dislike NIMBYism.
I’ve been to Edinburgh’s Hogmanay many times, staying with friends in the city centre, and I know most residents enjoy it, or at least tolerate it.
Its growth is a testament to Scotland’s entrepreneurial spirit and tradition of hospitality, and I agree we should take care not to kill the golden goose. Plenty of cities would love Edinburgh’s success.
But balance would indeed be good. So would common sense, and a renewed focus on the needs of residents.
The alternative is to end up like Venice, which has depressingly few actual residents and exists only for tourism, like a fading star repeating catchphrases on demand.