Council slammed over missing Xmas tree at Craigmillar switch-on

Boxer Jason Easton was invited to switch on the Christmas lights
Boxer Jason Easton was invited to switch on the Christmas lights
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THE mince pies were being handed round, the children were there to sing carols and local boxing hero Jason Easton had come along to do the honours.

The only thing missing from the big switch-on of Craigmillar’s Christmas tree lights was ... the Christmas tree.

More than 100 children and adults turned up outside Craigmillar Library for the event on Wednesday night.

But they found the city council had failed to put up the expected tree.

The carol singing went ahead anyway with youngsters from Castleview, Niddrie Mill and St Francis primary schools.

Santa handed out small gifts to all the children present.

And instead of flicking the switch to light up a Christmas tree, Jason Easton switched on lights which had been put up on trees near the library.

The children got an extra treat because he had brought along his championship title belts to show them.

Local organisers said the event went off well and insisted that even without a Christmas tree, it was better than last year when Craigmillar had got no Christmas decorations from the council.

But former Craigmillar councillor Paul Nolan slated the council over the missing tree.

“It’s another example of how councillors and officials couldn’t care less about Craigmillar,” he claimed.

“It had been planned for weeks. Everybody was there. They were supposed to switch on the lights on the Christmas tree – but there was no Christmas tree to light.”

Susan Carr, project manager at the Neighbourhood Alliance, said the council had approached them just a couple of weeks earlier, offering a Christmas tree and a switch-on ceremony.

The date was set for Wednesday and posters were distributed inviting the community to come along.

But just the day before, they learned there would not be a Christmas tree after all. The council blamed problems with installing a tree at the site.

“It was something to do with breaking slabs interfering with the utilities,” said Ms Carr.

“But the council did put lights on the trees outside the library and the event went very well considering it was done in a such short time frame.

“The people who went really enjoyed it and commented on how good it all looked.

“We had the kids singing and it was really heartwarming. We’ve not had anything like that for a long time in Craigmillar, so it’s nice to establish that tradition.

“We had hoped originally for a Christmas tree, but it was better than last year when we had nothing.

“It’s just one of those things. We’re grateful to the council for the efforts they did make. We’re not complaining.”

Last month the Evening News revealed that the council was ditching traditional Christmas trees in some areas of the city and instead adopting a more environmentally friendly approach – and saving money – by decorating existing trees.

Haymarket, Tollcross, Portobello and Drylaw were all named as areas set to lose their traditional cut tree. Other areas were to be given new decorative light columns. A total of 61 trees across the city would be lit up.

The council said there had been no formal agreement to provide a Christmas tree for Craigmillar and although there had been an informal conversation about the idea it was then discovered difficulties over installing it at the chosen site meant it was not possible after all.

A spokeswoman added: “We have been able to decorate four living trees for the first time and install lights outside the library.

“We were glad to see these switched on as part of a special Christmas ceremony on Wednesday night.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com