Plenty of ideas to get Capital’s 900th birthday party started - Susan Dalgety

Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh with fireworks over the Castle and Balmoral Clock TowerHogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh with fireworks over the Castle and Balmoral Clock Tower
Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh with fireworks over the Castle and Balmoral Clock Tower
So, Edinburgh’s SNP councillors are still complaining about the “shameful” decision to spend £500,000 on the Capital’s 900th anniversary this year.

At a recent council meeting Councillor Finlay McFarlane, one of four representatives for the city centre, moaned about the budget decision to spend a relatively small amount of money on what should be a huge celebration.

Muttering something about “gold-leafed agendas” – which I presume refers to the city crest on the council’s headed notepaper – Councillor McFarlane attacked the as-yet unseen plans to mark this historic year.

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“I just think… £500,000 on a party for the city is shameful", he said, prompting his Lib Dem colleague Councillor Hal Osler to put forward an amendment that promises to give any “left over” cash to cultural organisations. And council leader, Councillor Cammy Day promised to seek corporate sponsors to replace some of the money, “if we can” he said.

The scale of the city council’s ambitions would be laughable, if they were not so cringe-worthy.

Quite apart from my nagging suspicion that plans for the 900th anniversary year, which were first mooted back in August 2019, were forgotten amid the chaos of the pandemic and are still half-baked, half-a-million pounds is nowhere enough to celebrate the city’s landmark year.

But if the city council insists on doing it on the cheap, I hope they are calling in favours across the city to ensure that Edinburgh gets the birthday party it deserves. And here, free of charge, are just some ideas on how we could mark 900 years of glorious history.

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The Scottish Parliament celebrates a milestone this year too – it is 25 years since Holyrood opened its doors. The parliament could host a reception to toast Edinburgh’s birthday, there could be a debate in the chamber celebrating the city’s past and looking forward to its future.

And the parliament’s annual Festival of Politics could examine the role of capital cities in a country’s economic and cultural development.

Edinburgh was the world’s first City of Literature and is home to some of the world’s most popular writers, including JK Rowling, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. There must be scope to hold a series of events showcasing Edinburgh’s writers over 900 years.

Rope in the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh – formerly Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, surely, they would be willing to help promote the city whose name they now bear.

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And Edinburgh weather notwithstanding, let’s have street parties in every community in the city, from Wester Hailes to the Tron. I am sure even Councillor McFarlane could be persuaded to toast the city he is privileged to represent.

His boss, city centre MSP and Scotland’s culture secretary Angus Robertson, could join in. He may even find a few bob down the back of the Scottish Government’s sofa to help make the celebrations go with a bang.

Edinburgh Gin could blend a spirit to mark 900 years of history. This newspaper could publish a special edition. The opportunities are endless.

But time is running out. It’s the middle of March already, before we know it we will be swamped by Edinburgh’s annual festival programme. Let’s get this party started.