Why Iain Pope is wrong about McCall Smith being wrong about Edinburgh’s tartan tat is a headline I’m guessing my editor isn’t going to use.
Iain wrote a piece in this very paper on Tuesday and his argument was that while there were a lot of tartan tat shops, there were also a lot of tourists wanting tat and anyway better that than boarded-up shops.
Now, the first part of this is true in the sense that Edinburgh does currently attract a lot of visitors who will buy tat, but as somebody who has spent his working life in retail in Edinburgh I can definitely vouch for the fact that the number of such shops is completely unnecessary.
Also as I have said before, Edinburgh needs to attract the more discerning visitor as while other cities have chased after the high spending “arts tourist” Edinburgh has rather rested on its laurels.
This of course feeds back into the hotels argument too, in that there are those who say there are not enough hotels in Edinburgh at the high end to attract the big spenders. Certainly if budget hotels are still offering deals in Edinburgh during the Festival and at Christmas and New Year then I think we can safely say that that market needs no more additions.
More importantly there are of course more options than tat or boarded-up shops. Given many of these shops are owned by Edinburgh City Council they could take a lower rent in return for businesses bringing something new and interesting to the high street. When it has just been reported that councils are paying out hundreds of millions of pounds in golden handshakes it is ridiculous that they claim they need to get a few extra thousand pounds for a shop when there are benefits to the lower rents.
One thing is for sure and that is that some intervention is needed if things are going to change.