Readers' letters: Practical ways to ease pressure on councils

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There is at present much hand-wringing on the part of local authorities as they try to take what I accept are difficult budget decisions to try to balance their books. However, I think that our councils could be doing much more to ease the pressures on our important local services. Here are three suggestions:

Firstly, an immediate introduction of a tourist tax. A charge of £3 a night would raise something like £25 million annually for the City of Edinburgh. It is frankly risible to claim that the introduction of such a widely-applied tax would deter visitors.

Secondly as an Edinburgh Festival Volunteer Guide, I regularly find that visitors are astonished to be told that there are four City museums on the Royal Mile that have no admission charges. As a policy, free admissions to such cultural centres was well-intentioned but is now surely unsustainable. I am sure that readers who have travelled abroad and who have visited such venues would have paid an entrance fee to museums, galleries and, in many countries, even gardens. So why do we persist in allowing universal free entry to these attractions? There should be a charge which must generate much-needed income. Given our financial woes, can we afford to be so different?

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Finally, councils should increase the Council Tax rates for the three higher bands of Council Tax, F, G and H. The differential between those householders rated on Band A, the lowest band with those on Band H, the highest band, is very small and certainly does not reflect the present value of the respective properties and the likely income of the residents.

The Museum of Edinburgh in the Canongate: should entry remain free?The Museum of Edinburgh in the Canongate: should entry remain free?
The Museum of Edinburgh in the Canongate: should entry remain free?

The last valuations were carried out as far back as 1991. Why has nothing been done to bring property valuations up-to-date and adjust the council tax bands accordingly? What happened to the suggested local income tax?

In conclusion, I would suggest more action on the part of local councils and less complaining. There are ways to protect local services that are readily to hand.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh

Colonisers’ history

As Scotland remains tethered to a shrinking UK economy, which the IMF forecasts will be at the bottom of the G7 economies, below Russia, a friend made me aware of a little-known Edinburgh site. It is Summer House at Moray House, on the north side of Holyrood Road, where the 1707 Treaty of Union was signed. It was signed here and not at the Parliament because those who signed away Scotland’s statehood were terrified of a crowd of Scots who were enraged that their nation was being “bought and sold for English gold – such a parcel of rogues in a nation”.

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So, for their own safety, they retreated to this summer house in a private garden to sign away Scotland’s sovereignty in peace.

Another little-known fact is that the Treaty’s Article 13 imposed a malt tax on Scotland, that existed in England to pay for its war with France. However, the Scottish parliamentarians balked at this tax, so Scotland was exempted. The exemption didn’t last long because the ‘Union’ imposed it on Scotland anyway in 1725, sparking riots in Edinburgh and Glasgow where nine people were killed.

Suppressing a nation’s history, constitution, and language is what colonisers do, because if the colonised people had this knowledge, it would be harder for the coloniser to exercise control.

It’s time the Scottish people became reacquainted with their suppressed history and constitution, a constitution that guarantees their sovereignty over any government. Because when armed with that knowledge, they can break free.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Write to the Edinburgh Evening News

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