MUSEUMS and galleries run by the city council are set to close for two days a week as part of cost-cutting plans – despite a push to position the Capital as a 24-7 tourist destination.
If approved, fresh proposals aimed at plugging a £126 million budget gap would see the City Art Centre, Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh, People’s Story, Queensferry and Writers’ Museums open on five days a week, down from six or seven currently.
Council bosses have stressed that, although the number of “open” days would fall, venues would operate at weekends throughout the year.
They said that since Sunday closures are the biggest barrier to attendance for the public, the measure would respond to demand and save nearly £450,000.
The move – subject to consultation with the public, staff and trade unions – has sparked alarm among arts and business figures.
While welcoming efforts to boost access for families, they warned any reduction in opening hours could harm Edinburgh’s status as a travel and culture mecca.
Arts journalist Joyce McMillan, also theatre critic for The Scotsman, said: “If Edinburgh is really aspiring to be an international city and attract visitors, you cannot really have a situation where its major galleries and museums are shut on any day of the week.
“If people come for a weekend, they might well stay over until the Monday and may want to see things. It can be terribly disappointing if venues are closed.
“If you’re aspiring to be an international tourist city with a high profile then you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t keep venues open for seven days a week. However, I would agree that prioritising weekend opening is important, particularly for families.”
She added: “If you’re looking at Edinburgh’s wider reputation then you really don’t want to be reverting to a miserable, 1950s atmosphere when you had people wandering about looking for things to do.”
Graham Birse, director of the Edinburgh Institute, said: “Clearly the council needs to look at its budgets carefully – what might previously have been considered unthinkable needs to be thought.
“The impact of this idea on visitors needs to be carefully managed to minimise that impact. If you close a property for that length of time and inconvenience people, they will go elsewhere, they will find something else to do – and they might not come back. There’s a potentially detrimental impact in the long term from possible reductions in opening hours.”
Council leaders stressed that the budget consultation process was ongoing.
A spokeswoman said: “This proposal aims to save the council £447,000 while ensuring our cultural venues operate in line with public demand.
“The budget process is ongoing and it is important to remember these are proposals. People can feedback online and have their say using the council’s new budget planner.”