Edinburgh 900 celebrations will be more charity shop than Harvey Nichols - Susan Dalgety

Former Edinburgh Lord Provost councillor Frank RossFormer Edinburgh Lord Provost councillor Frank Ross
Former Edinburgh Lord Provost councillor Frank Ross
It’s not just the Scottish Parliament which enjoys a special anniversary this year. As I have written before, our wonderful city is 900 years old in 2024, a birthday well worth celebrating.

So far, the city council has been unusually coy about its plans to mark this landmark. The programme is yet to be revealed to the public, even though we are nearly in March. But the good news is that £500,000 was set aside for the celebrations in last week’s council budget – or a “community events strand” to use the official jargon.

Not everyone welcomed the news. The Edinburgh SNP took to social media to give the birthday budget a big thumbs down. “No support for unpaid carers in Edinburgh under Labour/Tory/LibDem coalition but they’ve just given £500,000 for a soirée,” they complained.

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I can understand their frustration at the plight of people who give up everything – including paid work – to care for a loved one, but surely spending half a million pounds on 900 years of civic history is money well spent. It only works out at £55,555 per century, hardly a huge sum to mark such a fantastic and fascinating city. You could spend millions telling the story of Mary Queen of Scots alone. And I bet London spends a few hundred thousand pounds marking its birthday, which it does every year. Since 2017, the UK capital has celebrated London History Day on 31 May – the day Big Ben first started keeping time.

A few weeks, the Lord Provost posted a message on the council’s website where he said he was looking forward to a great programme of events which will “examine how Edinburgh came to be over the centuries, celebrate where it is now, and reflect its future ambitions and aspirations”. Now that he and the 900th anniversary working group, first set up by his predecessor Councillor Frank Ross in August 2019, has got £500,000 in the birthday kitty, I hope we will soon find out what they have planned.

I am not expecting fireworks. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festivities cost around £3.5 million a year, seven times the budget for Edinburgh 900. I suspect the celebrations will be more charity shop than Harvey Nichols.