A CAMPAIGN has been launched to save the French Consulate in Edinburgh after it emerged key services were set to be moved down south.
The move will see the consulate’s administrative duties shifted to the embassy in London – meaning French citizens living in Scotland will have to travel down south to get passports renewed or ID cards issued.
More than 5000 French nationals are expected to be affected by the decision, which will come into force from as early as next year.
But angry campaigners are urging the French government to reconsider the plans – with a petition launched to try to reverse the proposals attracting more than 1300 signatures so far.
Christian Albuisson, a French government councillor elected to represent citizens in Scotland and the main backer of the petition, argued the move would lead to a loss of jobs and business. He said: “The French government has decided to save money – they took this decision without any consultation and it’s a scandal.
“We are going to lose the jobs and most of that business – issuing passports and ID cards – to London.
“And we are going to make life more difficult for the French people who want to live in Scotland, which is a shame because the French population is increasing here.
“We are up in arms, and we are hoping that an alternative solution will be found.”
A total of 5532 French citizens are registered to the consulate in Edinburgh – including a number of local business owners across the Capital.
Virginie Brouard, owner of La P’tite Folie restaurant near the consulate, insisted the decision would frustrate French residents used to the convenience of the Edinburgh office.
She said: “This will not be very good for getting your passport and visa. They were quite good with that in Edinburgh, and in London they were not good at all – people in London were coming up to Edinburgh to get their passports.
“It’s quite annoying when you have children and you have to go all the way to London.
“If you could do it by post or online that would be better. They will have to do something. The consulate has been here for so many years – it’s quite an institution.”
Marc Guerriot, a French designer at Klaklak creative agency in Slateford, added: “For French people living here permanently I can see it would be a bit of a nightmare.”
But a spokesman for the French government insisted the changes would be done “in the easiest way possible” for French citizens living in Scotland.
He said: “The French Consulate in Edinburgh is here to stay. Our political, commercial and cultural ties with the Scottish people and companies, as well as with the Scottish and British governments in Scotland, will be completely unaffected.”
The spokesman refused to confirm the number of jobs at the consulate that might be affected by the move.
Links go back to auld alliance
Links between Scotland and France stretch back to the so-called Auld Alliance – the pact of friendship forged between the two kingdoms in 1295.
And this strong French presence is written into the Capital’s fabric, with areas like Little France – named after members of Mary Queen of Scots’ entourage who settled there in the 16th century – a telling reminder of the weight of history.
But the 1560 Treaty of Edinburgh saw Scots and English troops team up to kick the French out – ushering in a new Anglo-Scottish settlement.