Edinburgh's Princes Street has 32 empty shops and city centre faces catastrophe without credible recovery plan – John McLellan

Not before time, the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Essential Edinburgh city centre business group have flexed their muscles to support the tourism sector, in this instance with backing for the Winter Festivals.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 4:45 pm
Edinburgh's Princes Street and the city centre needs a credible recovery plan or it faces troubled times ahead, warns John McLellan (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

With the summer already virtually a second write-off, the importance of the Christmas attractions in sustaining the city’s hospitality and retail economies has never been greater, but it goes much further than that.

Despite the excitement about the St James and Johnnie Walker openings this summer, the centre still faces a catastrophe, exacerbated by the council’s decision to axe the only organisation capable of selling the city.

According to industry sources, pre-pandemic there were eight empty shop units on Princes Street but now there are 32, and without intervention Edinburgh’s premier street could become Deadwood Gulch.

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With employment projections becoming more optimistic and the latest inflation figures showing money is being spent, rival cities won’t be sitting back and waiting for something to turn up, but there is no sense that Edinburgh institutions collectively know what its strategy should be.

The underfunded and somewhat fay Forever Edinburgh campaign might appeal to a certain demographic, but doesn’t scratch the surface of the effort needed to get the city back on its feet.

Meanwhile the city council’s 20-minute neighbourhood initiative could actually send the wrong message to the suburbs.

If it’s not already too late, these organisations which rely on a thriving city centre need to get their heads together and produce a credible plan before the summer is out.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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