Comment: The council faces some tough choices

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IN straitened financial times, difficult decisions must be made about where to economise. Households across the Lothians have been doing this for several years, as well as our major companies. And so to must local authorities.

Edinburgh City Council, in particular, now faces some of the toughest choices in its history. Everything from sports centre closures to the cutting of grass verges is being discussed.

But one item not yet considered is to slash back the cash paid to support the city’s festivals. Indeed, the funding has been ring-fenced in the face of crippling cuts.

To many, such a move would be financial folly because of the positive impact – socially, culturally and economically – which the festivals make to the region and to Scotland.

A report from 2011 concluded that the Festival was worth £261 million to the country’s economy, a sum greater than golf tourism. This figure is also around five times as much as single events such as Glastonbury.

It is undeniable that Edinburgh’s festivals are a cultural phenomenon, celebrated globally and treasured locally and are one of Scotland’s most visible assets. And this newspaper has been an unstinting supporter of all of these events throughout our long history.

But the council has a tough choice to make.

Can it continue to back the arts to the same level while some of our city’s primaries are bursting at the seams and the backlog on education maintenance continues?

Can we justify giving £1 million to Hogmanay when our roads are scarred with potholes? And should we carry on supporting the Book Festival when local sports centres are under threat?

Many will blame the tram project and ask whether the council can really justify a further extension of the line to Leith when so many “basics” are suffering.

Our elected members need to actively justify why the arts is more important than education.