THE organisers of Edinburgh’s Christmas celebrations today admitted that online comments attacking the cost of this year’s city centre event were hidden to quell criticism.
An employee of Underbelly – the company running the high-profile event for the first time – removed negative posts on the official Edinburgh’s Christmas Facebook page which were critical of the costs.
But after users complained to the Evening News about “censorship”, Underbelly reinstated the comments, blaming a “social media consultant” they employed.
The row comes amid growing public criticism of the cost of the event to ordinary families. The cost of a trip on the Star Flyer is £7.50 for five minutes, while ice skating costs £8.50 per person.
As of 9am today, more than 6000 Evening News readers supported the deleted letter of mother Katie Campbell, who told organisers: “I am disappointed that the prices have risen so considerably this year. It was £22 for our family to go on the Big Wheel for precisely two rotations. The carousel is £4 and that includes paying for tiny humans, and ice skating is even pricier.
“It saddens me that the Christmas attractions must be [an] unaffordable luxury for many families in Edinburgh. We all deserve a bit of festive cheer in our own city, and I think this has been lost in the quest to make lots of money.”
Another reader, Alex Kolossy, told the News: “[Underbelly] were obviously embarrassed by the huge number of complaints on their Facebook account and decided to close the post. It doesn’t look good. Social media is supposed to be a conversation, not just a one way thing.”
Other Facebook users have also complained that their negative posts were removed by the company.
Despite increasing disquiet about prices, Edinburgh’s Christmas has drawn large crowds. Last week Underbelly released figures which showed 751,000 visitors had flocked to the first ten days of the festival, generating an estimated income of £580,000.
The controversy is particularly embarrassing for the London-based firm which has responded to media criticism of pricing by pointing to the number of positive comments on its Facebook page – which has almost 37,000 followers.
Now it has emerged that while positive comments from the public were allowed to remain, some critical posts were removed.
The row is being watched closely by Edinburgh City Council, which appointed Underbelly and Unique Events to run the festivities.
The News understands that senior councillors are impressed with many of the innovations brought by the new operators but some are exasperated by the pricing row.
A senior council source told the News: “The city centre looks great and it’s busy, but we all know that £6 for a burger will annoy a great number of people.”
Following the furore which has erupted around her post, Katie, 36, left, said she had been overwhelmed by it all, but was grateful for all the support she had received.
“I never thought my post would take off in the way that it did. I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all to be honest. I never intended to embarrass the Christmas market, I just thought the pricing was wrong.
“I never knew about them taking down the post until it was pointed out to me the next day. I think everyone involved, both myself and the Christmas market, have learned a valuable lesson in the use of social media and how a public post can suddenly go viral.”
Bosses at the event have apologised for the mistake which saw the post removed but have been keen to remind people that it represents a small fraction of the people through the gates already this year.
A spokesman said: “The error was a human error by our independent social media consultant. Edinburgh’s Christmas saw the mistake this morning and immediately rectified it. We apologise for the mistake and welcome all comment as we have done since we took over the Facebook profile in October, when we had 9000 friends, to today, when we have over 36,000 friends.”