the frightening scenes as revellers were injured in the crush at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay are still too fresh in the mind for anyone to be complacent about such risks.
Thankfully, however, the problems at the Capital’s Christmas celebrations have been on a completely different level to those experienced at New Year festivities, most disturbingly at the Millenium and then on a smaller scale two years ago. No one has been hurt at the Christmas markets and the organisers have acted quickly to ensure that as far as is possible things stays that way.
Few among the many thousands of visitors who flocked to the markets in Princes Street Gardens at the weekend appeared to feel there was any risk of people getting injured. Some safety concerns were raised about the number of people cramming onto the pavement outside the some of the busiest entrances to the markets, but the queuing system that was quickly introduced appears to have addressed that worry.
Many more people came away from their evening out feeling that it had been spoiled by overcrowding. In that sense, Edinburgh’s Christmas is in danger of falling victim to its own success.
It is only because the Capital’s festive celebrations have attracted so many visitors, especially from outside the city, that it is experiencing its current difficulties. That will be a worry for the organisers who will know that the biggest risk they are facing right now is the potential damage not to life and limb but the reputation of the event. If people don’t enjoy it, they won’t come back.
And, unless visitor numbers can be properly controlled, the experience of an overcrowded market will only serve to alienate residents, many of whom might have been tempted along by the special discounts for locals. The Christmas celebrations are now an important part of the city’s economy. Their future needs careful handling for that to continue.