Leader: ‘There are bound to be some surprises’

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WILL there be reindeer and an ice rink in Princes Street Gardens again next Christmas? What about the German market, fairground and big wheel?

In true showbiz style, Pete Irvine is leaving us to guess what shape the Capital’s Christmas festivities will take now that he is in charge.

But with the man who created Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party you can be sure of one thing – there are bound to be some surprises.

It’s no surprise, though, that the city has put its faith in him to run both its Hogmanay and Christmas celebrations.

Rival bidder Nickie Gott had some impressive plans, but always had her work cut out trying to beat “Mr Hogmanay”, whose track record is second to none.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the cash-strapped city council did not go for the cheaper option. The local authority will plough almost £4 million of public money into the festivities over the next three years, nearly half a million more than they could have done.

That is a brave decision at a time when the city is putting up car parking fees and insisting it can’t afford to continue offering free public toilets in the city centre.

Slashing spending on the winter festivals to save these services would be popular in many quarters. It would not, however, be wise.

Just think of the thousands of jobs which rely on winter visitors flocking to the Capital each year. Many are attracted directly by the Hogmanay Street Party and the ice rink and fair in the Gardens.

Their spending in hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and other attractions adds up to millions of pounds. The Hogmanay celebrations alone are estimated to generate £27m for the city economy.

The city has quite rightly insisted that the years of bail-outs for the private companies running these festivals are over. All the financial risk in the coming years will be carried by the brave entrepreneurs.

But cutting the basic funding for these popular celebrations would be a false economy.