It's business as usual in Edinburgh with the return of Hogmanay - Kevin Buckle

The call this week from the hospitality industry for clarity on Scottish business rates after April is one that clearly extends to retail too.

By Kevin Buckle
Saturday, 30th October 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 31st October 2021, 8:59 am
Edinburgh's annual torchlight procession will be returning as part of the city's revived Hogmanay festival.
Edinburgh's annual torchlight procession will be returning as part of the city's revived Hogmanay festival.

Rishi Sunak’s announcement in the Budget of a 50 per cent business rates discount for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses was not followed by any speedy follow-up announcement from the Scottish Government, which is in itself worrying.

In these times of great uncertainty anything businesses know for a fact is a huge bonus. These facts may not always be considered good for them but at least a business can plan ahead and in many cases nowadays decide on their viability.

Quite why there was no immediate response about Scottish business rates I don’t know as surely the Chancellor’s decision had not taken them by surprise. As my column is written on a Thursday evening there is still a chance of some indication this week and everybody expects that the discounted business rates figure will be matched.

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If that is the case then certainly that gives retail a year to recover and we all hope things will be in a better place by April 2023. Hospitality are so good at lobbying and retailers so poor that even I am not sure what the real situation is but “patchy” is a word often used for both sectors, with some doing well and others in dire straits.

What the thinking is behind the delay in any official comment is hard to fathom but certainly all businesses need to know as soon as possible so they can plan ahead.

Often those who are not in business seem to think that retailers in particular take things one at a time planning now for Christmas and with no great thought as yet as to what they will be doing come Easter. This is of course nonsense and some businesses plan years ahead especially with their promotions and stock.

While the Chancellor’s announcement was not a great surprise, news that Edinburgh is to revive its world-famous Hogmanay celebrations this year, including a torchlight parade, street party, gardens concert, midnight fireworks and Message From The Skies was at least a surprise to me.

Cynics will say this was always on the cards but the idea that encouraging large crowds like this and to this extent seems to fly in the face of all good reason.

As if that wasn’t enough. news soon followed that Burns & Beyond was also to go ahead from 22 January-5 February. It is a more measured affair and with a great line-up but I’ve always been annoyed with their original pitch for council funding.

Given what they were doing it wasn’t clear why they needed funding but then just to rub salt in the wounds they said it would be a great boost for retailers bringing people to the city at a quiet time. The councillors all nodded wisely that indeed this was a good thing.

All my information is that these events are indeed popular with locals but few plan trips based on what is on offer. The next year they returned for more money with news of what a great success things had been but no actual figures of its wider impact.

It appears Edinburgh is now quickly returning to the status quo.

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