COMMENT: Beauty’s in the eye - or ear - of the beholder

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BAGPIPES are a menace and ought to be banned from the streets of the Capital.

They are fine for military parades, pre-match entertainment at football matches and other places that demand an almighty noise. But have you ever tried working in an office with a busker, who is perhaps yet to master the finer points of his art, wailing away outside your window all day long? It’s enough to drive anyone to distraction. And then there are the late-night street guitarists – and don’t start us on the drummers.

Of course, the buskers that flock to the city centre in increasing numbers throughout the year bring a great deal to Edinburgh in terms of atmosphere and fun. Or at least many of them do. And, yes, in reality, there are a lot of reasons why a ban is not a good idea.

But Julian Spalding, the former director of Glasgow’s Kelvingrove and Modern Art galleries, who is complaining about the buskers outside his Grassmarket home, has a point.

While tourists may love them, especially the bagpipers, they can very much divide opinion among those of us who live and work in the city. Beauty is often in the eye – or the ear – of the beholder. Most of us will enjoy listening to a talented performer while enjoying a sandwich in the park.

But for those who live and work in parts of the city centre they can be the bane of their lives. Constant performances, of varying quality, at all hours of the day and night, with no control over the volume, can be wearing to say the least.

OK, city centres are meant to be lively places, but if we want them to be places where people live and work there has to be some control over the environment.

The buskers’ code of conduct drawn up by the city means the rules of what is and is not acceptable are widely understood. The problem is enforcement. Maybe that is something that a quiet word from the city centre police could sort out.