Martin Hannan: Festival tax plan is just laughable

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You are going to hear squeaky sounds screeching from the City Chambers over the next seven or eight months as certain members of Edinburgh City Council clutch at a few remaining straws.

The latest of these is the Festival Tax, about as bonkers an idea to emanate from the Chambers as I have ever heard.

Is this council which puts less than £10 million – all told – into all the 12 major Festivals seriously suggesting a tax on tickets for the world’s greatest arts jamboree?

Is anyone in the High Street’s home for the daft seriously aware of what is happening in the real world? Don’t councillors and officials know that all of Edinburgh’s festivals are in a cut-throat competitive business where any notion of a tax on tickets will send people away in droves to Manchester, Salzburg and every other city that puts proper resources into its festivals.

I have said this before and I will say it again ad infinitum: Edinburgh gets its festivals on the dirt cheap, and too many bozos on the council mistakenly resent having to hand over money to institutions which, lest we forget the independent evidence, are worth more than £260m to the economy.

Yes there are cuts in public budgets inflicted on Scotland by Westminster, and sadly the arts and cultural activities will bear their share, even though the National Lottery could fund the lot if it wasn’t paying for London’s Olympics.

Looking for alternative ways of raising money is therefore laudable, but to suggest an unworkable, unpopular, possibly illegal – remember the defunct bed tax that no court would ever have allowed? – and definitely counter-productive ticket tax is nuts.

This one leaked out from the office of council leader Jenny Dawe, or at least it received its initial acceleration from her. She is a woman who is surely working her notice period, whether she jumps before next May or is pushed by the electorate then.

If this is the best she can trumpet, may I suggest the good councillor go and hide in a cupboard until her departure from the chambers.

At least the trams inflicted on us by Labour, Greens, Tories and Liberal Democrats will at last have some sense in their management now that the SNP Scottish Government has sent in Transport Scotland to keep a weather eye on things. No-one in my party, the SNP, wanted the trams, but for the good of the nation, the SNP has stepped in to stop the lunacy. Personally, I think the SNP should have stayed away, both at government and council level, and let the other eejits go down the line and hit the buffers themselves, but I recognise that further damage to Edinburgh and Scotland would have occurred had the intervention not taken place. And we will now have an inquiry – should be very, very interesting with councillors and ex-councillors alike up for questioning.

As for the developing repairs scandal, all I am going to say is that it will be bigger than anyone has so far realised and that its effects will hopefully put some people in jail while the cost to the council tax payer will run into the tens of millions.

Forget the bleating by certain wise-after-the-event councillors. It was undoubtedly the diligence of a particular SNP councillor, Stefan Tymkewicz, which caused the alarm to be raised on this horrendous scandal. He did the right thing, and now we wait to see who takes responsibility. The council’s own inquiry must broaden. For a start, the idea that the abhorrent practices in certain departments only date back to 2005 is completely wrong. Going back perhaps a further three or four years might be necessary.

The trams and repairs scandals are massive problems which are besmirching Edinburgh. Is it asking too much that something be done about them rather than subject us to such fruitcake nonsense as Festival Tax?

Can-can-do attitude

I WAS privileged to attend the graduation ceremony of Jewel and Esk College at the Usher Hall on Friday to see a certain James John Robert Hannan and 200 of his former colleagues go up on to the stage to be presented with their graduation certificates. You can appreciate my immense pride in my son’s achievements, and as he moves on to university, our family will always be grateful to Jewel and Esk for its immense part in his education.

College principal Mandy Exley took the opportunity to inform the audience that merger talks with Stevenson College are ongoing. No fuss, no shouting from the rooftops, no demonstrations, just a sensible approach to seeing if a merger is possible.

Contrast that with the howls about mergers elsewhere. Methinks Ms Exley and colleagues are doing things the right way, and whatever happens, as she said, the best interests of students will be put first. Good luck to them all.

It would be remiss of me also not to congratulate the wonderful female dance students who performed before the ceremony what was billed as a traditional chorus line approach to a tune by French composer Jacques Offenbach. Some people call it the can-can, I’m told.

Whatever its name, it ensured that Jewel and Esk’s graduation ceremony was very different and, ahem, quite memorable, and if there’s to be college mergers and ceremonies in future, can you can-can again, please?