Gina Davidson: Christmas price cuts not enough

Christmas deals could be extended to everyone. Picture: Joey Kelly
Christmas deals could be extended to everyone. Picture: Joey Kelly
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THERE are only 84 days until Christmas. Hope you’ve been saving – especially as, according to Toys R Us, one of the biggest sellers this year is going to be a souped-up £400 go-kart, if you’re daft enough to buy into the hype.

At least one element will be slightly cheaper come December. The organisers of Edinburgh’s Christmas appear to have learned the lessons of last year’s overpriced debacle and have finally realised that the first word in their title is rather important.

I’d like to be able to give my personal impressions of just how well Underbelly did in their first year of hosting the festive celebrations in the city centre, but I never went. It was way too expensive – partly because I have three kids but mostly because the prices charged for a few spins on a Ferris wheel or a couple of minutes running round a maze were obviously set by a pre-ghost-visit Scrooge.

Apparently there were record-breaking numbers of people turning up to see the new lights and ice rink and European market stalls, but also hundreds of complaints about the cost – some of them deleted from the event’s official Facebook page until pressure from this paper forced them to be reinstated.

So, this year, organisers have announced that people with an EH postcode in their address will receive 20 per cent off all attractions. A fifth off the price of paid rides, skating, even Santa. And if you’re a family you can get even more off, while many of the attractions aimed specifically at children have had their price cut as well.

It all sounds good, but how will the discount work? The EH postcode obviously stretches throughout Mid, East and West Lothian, areas which are part of Edinburgh’s “sprawl”, the commuter belt for Scotland’s capital city. But I’ve already heard rumblings of discontent from those who have chosen to live across the water in Fife, but who still work in Edinburgh, about being barred from the discount.

Perhaps they will be able to rent a utility bill for their day out in town. I can imagine some enterprising marketeers setting up stalls on the south side of the Forth Road Bridge offering official bits of paper with EH addresses from ScottishPower, BT or E.on for a few quid a time.

And will proof of address have to be proffered at every ticket booth or will people be stamped? An EH in large red letters on the back of the hand?

Here’s a radical thought. Why not just reduce the prices across the board for everyone – and then no-one will feel left out? Or let’s admit that it’s not really Edinburgh’s Christmas, it’s the shops’ Christmas, a way of enticing people into the city centre to spend cash in their stores and to attract the tourists to the city in winter time. It’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it?

Sorry to be quite so cynical but there’s no mention as yet of tickets being donated to schools in the city’s more deprived areas where some children are unlikely to even be taken into Princes Street to “soak up the atmosphere”.

But I’m hoping that may well yet occur to the organisers. After all, at the moment, it is still all of Edinburgh’s Christmas.

Yes camp is wasting energy on pointless issues

I’M all for political activism and it’s been fantastic to see how galvanised people were during the referendum campaign – on both sides, though admittedly the Nos were eventually forced into it by the threat of Yes winning.

And it’s a good thing that those who were disappointed in the result are now joining political parties and seem prepared to campaign into the future. I hope the boredom of branch meetings doesn’t put them off.

But what’s disappointing to see is the energy of some of the Yes campaigners being wasted on marches for revotes, claims the referendum was rigged, a holier-than-thou attitude that only they care about tackling society’s ills and persecution complexes about media bias.

The majority of people voted No. And according to the little research that’s been done so far, they had made up their minds to do so before the so-called “vow” made by the Tory, Lib Dem and Labour leaders. So it wasn’t really about “devo max” or whatever it’s being called now.

If the Yes people really want to change the percentages, they need to put their energies into finding answers to the questions those No voters had about independence.

Be sensible to recover taxes

IT was probably inevitable that all those who had stayed clear of the voters roll since the anti-poll tax campaign, but who signed back up to take part in the referendum vote, would attract the attention of the tax men at councils.

With an estimated

£50 million unpaid in council tax and £70m in poll tax in Edinburgh, it’s hard for the local authority to turn a blind eye if it suddenly knows where to find those who haven’t paid.

I had thought that poll tax debts had long been written off but apparently not. And given that Edinburgh needs to pull in every penny it can, those who haven’t paid are likely to feel the full force of the revenues department.

Having the franchise means you should also be financially accountable for the taxpayer-funded services you receive. It’s hard to argue, but I hope that a sensible approach is taken to recouping monies owed.