LETTERS: Time to regulate buskers in city residential areas

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Having actively chosen to make my home in the Grassmarket 16 years ago – an exciting, diverse and mixed residential area – I have to agree with the residents who regularly turn out in force at public meetings on planning and noise issues, that an effective and enforceable policy to curb excessive amplified noise pollution in the city centre is long overdue (‘Busker ban plea strikes a chord’, News, February 15).

The Grassmarket mainly consists of three hotels with around 350 bedrooms and over 650 tenement flats above an eclectic array of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs, with residents all paying their council tax and businesses paying business rates as well as maintaining the architectural fabric of the place, making it attractive to live and work in, as well as a great destination for visitors. Buskers pay nothing.

The more recent noise pollution of amplified buskers entertaining stags and hens well after the 9pm “guidelines” are a significant encroachment on our right to have a reasonably quiet life in our homes.

All three of our local councillors, across party lines, accept this and consistently make positive representation supporting residents, as do our MSP and MP. Only last week full council supported a report being drawn up to provide a framework for responsible management of events in consultation with residents and businesses, so why can’t a similar inclusive approach be drawn up to regulate busking – particularly amplified busking – as has been the case in many other cities throughout the UK, Europe and in the States.

The creation of busking zones away from residential areas is a good idea, particularly if it were conditional on being agreed by both residents and businesses. Outside the National Gallery at The Mound and in front of Register House spring to mind as obvious areas with little residential impact.

It is surely unacceptable for residents in particular to pay the price of being driven mad by unregulated amplified noise – sometimes well after midnight in the summer. These are our homes, not party city!

Murray Forgie, Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Edinburgh becomes dirty man of Europe

As a native of Edinburgh I visit the city frequently and my disappointment grows with every trip.

I must question the role of Edinburgh city councillors. On each visit I see the city grow progressively dirtier.

I wrote a letter to the Evening News some five years ago about the dog dirt and litter along the High Street and promenade in Portobello. The dog dirt situation seems to have improved but the litter problem seems to grow worse.

Other parts of the city have gone from bad to worse. Duke Street and Easter Road are like a third world country, with litter obstructing the pavements and the street gutters blocked.

Leith Walk and the Southside, especially Drummond and Infirmary Streets are a disgrace. That is why I call the city councillors to book.

Surely it is within their remit to walk around their wards and report back at subsequent council meetings. Maybe if all councillors lived within the wards they represent things would improve.

Edinburgh, I am sorry to say, is now the dirty man of Europe.

George Devlin, Poole, Dorset

Scots political figures are now a dull breed

APART from a couple of exceptions Scottish politics is lacking the notable politicians it produced in the past. The calibre of John Smith, Robin Cook, Donald Dewar, Margo MacDonald and my former councillor and MP Donald Gorrie.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Gordon Brown, David Steel, Menzies Campbell and Tam Dalyell are the only Scottish political grandees of the past remaining.

Whatever your political persuasion, only Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are current politicians of international standing. The Scottish Parliament in particular is lacklustre since the departure of Annabel Goldie and the passing of David McLetchie, characters missed from the chamber who were not afraid to speak their mind.

With the SNP likely to sweep the boards at the May election, apart from a few Green MSPs there will be no independently minded members in what promises to be a dull and predictable parliament in the years ahead.

George Ritchie, North Gyle Terrace, Edinburgh

Swinney’s land tax is coming up short

JOHN Swinney informs us the SNP’s stamp duty replacement (LBTT) is “on track” despite generating only two-thirds of expected revenues in its first nine months from residential 
transactions.

Commercial transactions may be holding up but with a tax shortfall from residential sales to the end of December and this quarter traditionally quieter in the residential market, the full financial year outlook doesn’t look as rosy as the finance secretary would have us believe.

The government estimated residential LBTT would raise £235m in the 2015-16 financial year. Over the first nine months, official figures show £156.7m was raised. This means residential tax receipts lag behind projections and must reach £78.3m in the last quarter to match the government’s original estimate. A tough ask.

While the housing market fluctuates over time, Mr Swinney overlooks mentioning the equivalent amount contributed in 2014-15 was £270m.

The SNP’s property tax regime places a disproportionate burden on families, particularly in higher priced areas such as Edinburgh and East Lothian. If a replacement tax doesn’t increase the overall tax yield then it is not fit for purpose and, in this instance, merely punitive.

Martin Redfern, Royal Circus, Edinburgh