EDINBURGH’S deputy council leader today vowed to send those planning to turn Edinburgh Castle into a giant advert for the London Olympics “home to think again”, as it emerged questions are to be asked in the Scottish Parliament over the controversial plan.
Independent MSP Margo MacDonald accused organisers of insulting people’s intelligence after they called the reaction “short-sighted”.
She said she would be writing to Shona Robison, Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, urging her to plot an escape route out of the “embarrassment” and will raise the issue in the debating chamber if necessary.
Yesterday, the News revealed that Games chiefs had lodged plans to mount an aluminium-cast Olympic insignia to the north face of the Castle as part of a vision to promote the event as “inclusive and UK-wide”.
If given the go-ahead by council planners, an eight-metre high model of the five Olympic rings – as well as an even taller Paralympic Agitos symbol – would be fixed to the Castle ramparts and be visible from Princes Street and the north of the city throughout next summer’s Games.
But politicians, ex-Olympians and heritage bodies have criticised the proposals, with deputy council leader Steve Cardownie leading the resistance.
Branding the proposals “ludicrous and a nonsense”, he said: “The walls of Edinburgh Castle have repelled a number of attempts to invade it over the years and I’m sure this will be repelled as well.
“The Castle is one of the most photographed sites in the whole of the UK, to have that Olympics symbol up there is a blemish. Everybody knows the Olympics is on and we don’t need a reminder on Scotland’s cherished castle, so we will send them home to think again.”
Former Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter Allan Wells, from Liberton, who was an ambassador for London 2012, said while he was a staunch supporter of bringing the Olympics to London, he questioned whether Edinburgh Castle was an “appropriate” location to promote the event.
“I think it would be more appropriate if Edinburgh was having the Olympics,” he said. “Maybe it’s not as appropriate as it could be. While I’m not quite sure if the Castle is the right place, we should accept the Games is coming to London and give it our support.
“Personally I would support it [being there] but if the majority of Scots said it shouldn’t be up there I would support that as well.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport at Westminster said: “It is short-sighted and disappointing that some people cannot recognise the benefits of having the Olympic rings in Edinburgh,” they said. “Edinburgh Castle is a spectacular, iconic building, and will provide a fantastic backdrop.
“London 2012 is for the whole of the UK and we know that Scotland will be right behind the likes of Sir Chris Hoy next summer.”
Margo MacDonald MSP described these comments as an “insult to our intelligence”. She said: “It defaces the Castle and interrupts a period when we are trying to promote Edinburgh.
“It’s a bit of a con job really because the Olympics are not much to do with us and it’s insulting our intelligence to say we are part of it.
“That doesn’t mean we are opposed to the Games but it’s their show, please don’t interfere with our show.
“Seb Coe has put Edinburgh City Council in an embarrassing position and is taking advantage of our generosity. The contribution we made without being asked was from the budget for community sport. Does that make us part of the Olympics? I don’t think so.”
Marion Williams of the Cockburn Association said: “I can’t see them being allowed to put it up on Windsor Castle.”
And Edinburgh North & Leith Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz said: “This could become a precedent for other publicity campaigns wanting to use such a prestigious site.”
Emma McCormick, 17, a barista from Gilmerton, said: “It really wouldn’t look nice. I mean, they don’t cover it in tinsel at Christmas.”
An Edinburgh City Council spokeswoman said: “An application for advertisement consent was received on November 7. A report on the application will be considered by the development management sub-committee in the coming weeks.”
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: “We have received a Scheduled Monument Consent for a temporary application for the Olympic rings, which is going through the due process.”
What do you think about plans to place Olympic rings on the Castle?
Lara Robb, 34, travel consultant, Stenhouse: “I don’t really like it but it’s supporting the Olympics and UK so, as long as it’s taken down at the end of the Games, I don’t have too much of a problem. I don’t think it would look really attractive or nice though. A light projection at night would be better maybe.”
Joe Caslinne, 28, student, city centre: “I don’t like the look of it at all. I don’t think the Castle should be just seen as a building that no-one can touch. It should be used and engaged with but not to that extent. I don’t agree with the scale of it. It’s like a brand logo going on the side of the Castle. I really don’t think it’s attractive at all.”
John and Jean Clark, 75 and 73, retired, Haymarket: “I don’t see why we should be talking about putting the logo on the Castle. There’s very little we’re getting in direct benefits anyway – some of the football matches are coming here maybe, but not a lot else. The Olympics doesn’t have much to do with Edinburgh. We’re not anti-English at all but most of the emphasis is on London and down south. We’re not really participating so why put something like that up there? It’s an eyesore, and Edinburgh is such a beautiful city. We’re talking about Edinburgh Castle. It’s not an advertising board – it’s a historical building and it should be left alone.”
James Hainey, 40, single parent, Leith: “I don’t think it looks too bad. And the Olympics is for the whole of Britain. I know we’re in Scotland but we are part of Britain. Having the logo on the Castle shows that Scotland is taking notice of it happening. I don’t think it would be too bad going up there for a few months.”