How about Scottish Government investing in something worthwhile? - Susan Dalgety

The final bill for the failure of the Scottish Government’s deposit return scheme (DRS) has still to be worked out, but it has already cost tens of millions.
Nicola Benedetti at the Edinburgh International Festival programme launch (pic: Mihaela Bodlovic)Nicola Benedetti at the Edinburgh International Festival programme launch (pic: Mihaela Bodlovic)
Nicola Benedetti at the Edinburgh International Festival programme launch (pic: Mihaela Bodlovic)

The government-run Scottish National Investment Bank has lost its £9 million investment and Circularity Scotland – the company set up to run DRS - has collapsed owing £86 million.

The Scottish government minister in charge of this financial disaster, Lothian Green MSP Lorna Slater, is still in her job, impervious to criticism.

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Sadly her mishandling of large sums of taxpayers’ cash is not unusual among government ministers. The Scottish Government has a track record of wasting money, whether it is on ill-conceived environmental schemes, bankrolling steel magnates or rusting ferries, and shrugs off its profligacy without embarrassment.

Yet, when it comes to one of Scotland’s most successful ventures, Edinburgh’s International Festival and Fringe, the government’s generosity suddenly dries up.

As this year’s festivities got underway, culture minister Christina McKelvie warned that the festivals – which generate £500 million each year for the Scottish economy – must rely less on public funds in the future.

I agree with Nicola Benedetti, the director of the international festival, who last week called for an “uplift” of public cash to bring Edinburgh more in line with major cultural events in Europe, which get far more support from their governments, local and national.

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Edinburgh festivals are a sure-fire bet. They have a 76-year-old track record of success – and have put the Capital – and therefore Scotland – firmly on the cultural world map. Any government money invested in the festivals offers a significant return on investment, not only in the economic benefit they bring, but enhancing Scotland’s reputation abroad.

I know the festivals can be painful for local residents. The High Street becomes a no-go area, unless you like being showered in Fringe flyers. Buses never run on time. You can’t get a seat in a city centre bar or restaurant. And there should be a ticket pricing structure that gives local people a discount.

But our city and Scotland would be so much worse off without the festivals. They are exactly the kind of success story the Scottish Government should be spending our tax money on.

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