Scottish independence: Oliver Dowden's Festival comments underline how English Tory MPs don't really understand Scotland – Helen Martin

Apart from the vast rainfalls and flooding, plus the extremely hot weeks this summer warning us all of climate change, this season has felt good to me.

By Helen Martin
Monday, 23rd August 2021, 4:55 am
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said Edinburgh's festivals could help 'sell the UK on the world stage' (Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said Edinburgh's festivals could help 'sell the UK on the world stage' (Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

To be honest, that’s because the Festival and Fringe has been much better, smaller and shorter. Without overtourism, millions crowding on all the streets, and thousands of Airbnbs pestering residents who live in the centre, it’s been a nice city.

There have been pleasant, outdoor venues arranged around Edinburgh, and this year’s adaption because of Covid has been wonderful.

It’s interesting that the UK’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has a very different attitude. He wants next year to come back to the 4.4 million audience with 25,000 performers and 5000 events.

And why? Because that’s good for the UK. He believes Edinburgh’s flagship cultural events will help “sell the UK on the world stage”.

The other happenings he believes the summer Festivals will tie up with is actually nothing to do with Scotland. Coinciding promotions would be the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and 100 years of the BBC (which doesn’t cover Scotland nowadays and less of the population watch it), the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (which Olympic Scots are being told to avoid), and all to create a UK-wide celebration of culture.

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In fact, he thinks Edinburgh Festivals belong to the whole world. He’s right about that but the rest of the world can come and add to the crowding and chaos, then go home to their calmer environment.

He doesn’t seem to understand that there’s a division between residents here who either love the Festival and Fringe, or find it nauseating.

He also, as a ‘Culture’ Secretary, ignores the warnings that our world heritage site status could be lost with all this extending again, and vile, new, tall constructions destroying our historical culture, views and buildings.

It’s harder for our people to afford to buy a tenement flat as their home when short-term lets for overtourism make these flat prices double and that means they are being bought by international finance investors.

He really wants our Festivals to “scale back up”, but is he ignoring food shortages, booze deliveries reduced, gas and electricity costs soaring, a lack of hospitality and hotel staff because of Brexit, let alone a probable reduction of income to stage events. Is he trying to convince us all that moving back to 4.4 million guests would be a good and easily handled challenge for Edinburgh and its residents – or just an advantage for the UK?

He claims returning to the huge Festival back in 2019 is, as he claims, an advantage to the UK in 2022. As is usual for a UK Secretary, he is completely ignoring that 2023, a mere 12 months ahead of his promotional plan, is possibly the year when Scotland votes to leave the UK. Does he know that?

Here’s another little example. Scotland is planning a minimum income guarantee, while the UK is reducing its Universal Credit. It’s common sense that English Tory MPs shouldn’t advise us at all because they don’t understand that, in many ways, Scotland is a different country.

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