COMMENT: There is a wider principle at stake here

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Have your say

So the cat is out of the bag on the closure of Calton Hill at Hogmanay.

The bottom line is that saving money played a big part in the decision to ban the public from one of the city’s most popular vantage points for viewing the New Year fireworks.

The reality – that everyone had guessed at anyway – appears to have been confirmed in a letter from a senior council official to an unhappy local resident. The explanation that has been offered up so far – that it was simply too unsafe – just did not stand up to scrunity.

OK, more people might be heading up the hill than ever before, and yes it is dark and the ground is uneven, and many people will have taken drink. But, if it is safe for around 10,000 people to attend the torchlight procession there tonight and a similar number to attend the Beltane Fire Festival celebrations in April, why not Hogmanay as well?

The answer seems quite clear, that the ongoing cash crisis at the city council – coupled with budgetary pressures on the police – led to a decision that it was simply too expensive to send enough stewards up Calton Hill on New Year’s night.

Now, with schools and care services to provide and potholed roads to fill, it is easy to understand why the city council might feel there are more important calls on the public purse.

There is however a wider principle at stake here – and that is what access should the people of Edinburgh reasonably expect to their city centre at Hogmanay? With a lot of the city centre already cut off to anyone who has not bought a street party ticket, is it right to close down one of the most popular free-to-enter spots for enjoying the celebrations? Or should it be kept open with a nominal entry fee to cover costs?

It is too late to debate the issue this year, but the public deserves their say before this summary ban is imposed again next winter.