Helen Martin: Why have a cash cow if we refuse to milk it?

ASSUMING airport estimates were correct, 1000 tourists an hour arrived in Edinburgh by plane on Friday to enjoy the city Hogmanay. That of course, does not include those who arrived by train, coach or car or those who came the week before, including Christmas in their festive break.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 2nd January 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 11:43 am
Revellers enjoy themselves over Hogmanay. Picture: Jane Barlow
Revellers enjoy themselves over Hogmanay. Picture: Jane Barlow

What those thousands of visitors didn’t realise – and probably still don’t – is that they are a hot topic of discussion and division for the local citizenry.

For the hospitality, retail and transport sectors, they are the best possible Christmas and New Year present. For the rest of us they turn the city into a no-go area. Our relatives from Penicuik attempted to visit the market in Princes Street Gardens, but wound up going home again because they couldn’t battle through the crowds to get in.

Despite Edinburgh’s festive attractions pulling in record numbers, tourism is an all-year-round business for this city . . . this very small, concentrated and densely populated city. Throughout 2016 I went to the Princes Street/George Street central area a grand total of three times, and on each occasion, I just did what I had to do and got out again as soon as possible.

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The drivers fined for parking without paying on December 27 were not to blame. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

To be fair, a lot of locals like the “buzz” and the cosmopolitan atmosphere. What they don’t like is reduced services and rising council tax, much of which is spent not on them but on increased services and attractions for tourists.

The Scottish Government does not treat Edinburgh folk fairly. The amount of tourism we bring to the country, considering our compact layout, is massive.

The events we are forced to host cause all sorts of problems. And if tourists think accommodation here is expensive, they should try living here permanently with the cost of buying or renting among the highest in the UK outside London – and continuing to rise.

Rejecting the city council’s proposal for a tourist tax was an arrogant, ignorant and cruel decision by the Government.

The drivers fined for parking without paying on December 27 were not to blame. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

We need that, not just to keep providing all we offer tourists but to help keep locals onside and demonstrate to those outwith the tourist “bonanza” that we can all benefit.

In general, the council puts tourists’ needs and wishes well above the local electorate but the lack of a tourist tax here is like having a cow and refusing to milk it.

For beleaguered residents, tourists and their entertainments effectively stop us crossing our own city on Hogmanay and expose us to the most disturbing, excessive and frightening firework display in the country – weather permitting.

Stay up for the Bells? Well if you live within a few miles of the Castle, you have no choice. Even Diazepam and ear plugs can’t block out the explosions and vibrations.

If all that sounds too much like “Bah Humbug!”, I must say I entirely agree with the official Evening News point of view that the income from tourism is especially important in the midst of Brexit uncertainty.

But I also agree that residents have to be given more consideration by the council and the Government, otherwise resentment will grow and, as some of my friends and family members have already done, the answer will be to move out of the city to find space, peace, quiet, lower council tax and more affordable homes.

Just RingGo and take a running jump

THE parking fine fiasco when the RingGo app wrongly told drivers there were no parking charges in Edinburgh on December 27 resulted in a number of tourists and locals being issued with tickets and now they are being told they can appeal and will be “looked on favourably”. What a damn cheek!

Why should they have to be inconvenienced by having to write or email and go through the whole appeal rigmarole humbly asking for their penalty to be dismissed? The drivers weren’t to blame.

Surely the technology exists to wipe out all fines issued for that one day and let the council, RingGo and NSL parking enforcement take the hit. The breakdown in communication that misled drivers and gave them incorrect information was down to them so it is they who should be obliged to spend time correcting the consequences, not their customers.

Bar codes of conduct out of order

ANOTHER racism debate has been stirred up by whether or not supermarkets should respect employees’ rights not to handle specific products which are against their religion or culture.

Muslim check-out assistants in Tesco have refused to serve customers buying alcohol while M&S permits staff to refuse customers buying booze or pork, forcing them to queue again at another till.

Morrisons “respects and works around” such cultural or religious wishes; Asda won’t use any staff on tills if they object to handling alcohol; and Sainsbury’s says there is absolutely no reason why staff can’t handle such goods. I imagine Aldi and Lidl, with their speedy check-out routine will take the same view.

Maybe I’m being naïve and simplistic here, but with current technology, why is this an issue at all? Can’t the check-out operator just ask the customer to pass the “unsavoury” item’s bar code over the scanner themselves?

The stamp of disapproval

LAZY parents are being blamed by a former headmaster of Harrow for their kids’ failure to write personal thank-you letters . . . presumably with a quill on vellum and sealed with wax.