Leader: Debate on Royal Mile’s future starts now

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THE Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s jewel. A world- famous, all-year-round attraction which has always been the number one destination for every new tourist arriving in our great city.

It is also, as we know, not without its problems and if we are to continue to compete in an ever more competitive tourism market, it’s clear the historic street is going to have to up its game.

Having the Castle at one end and the Palace at the other is always going to prove a draw, but working to improve the experience in between is vital.

The very fact that the city council is looking at an action plan for the area should be welcomed as a great step forward.

Some of the details which we reveal today will no doubt prove controversial, especially as any talk of road changes or pedestrianisation will fill motorists with dread.

However, provided the consultation is thorough, the arguments clearly made and the changes well planned, there should be no obvious barrier to a brighter, better, pedestrian-friendly future.

The big issue remains the plethora of so-called tartan tat shops which fill the street. The debate has been raging for years and is not going to be solved overnight. However, the city council, as the biggest landlord on the Royal Mile, is in the best position to engineer change and gradually create a more balanced retail offering.

The retailers have to be willing to come and will have to be sold on the vision, and it may also take movement on the long-running issue of sky-high rents charged for a prime spot. The debate on the future starts here and will require everyone – the city council, private business, and local residents – to work together.

The Royal Mile will always be Edinburgh’s jewel, but it is long overdue a polish.

Great wall in making

Bosses at Historic Scotland, the custodians of Edinburgh Castle, had no choice but to come up with the plan for a new Castle wall after a series of rockfalls on to Johnston Terrace in recent years. It is unfortunate that this is necessary, but while there is risk to the public and passing traffic there is little room for argument.

However, the wall – which will be completed towards the end of 2014 – could in itself become an attraction with the agency open to the idea of it being decorated by murals or mosaics. The great wall of independence, anyone?