Steve Cardownie: Festival naysayers are always proved wrong

As the main Festival season of August approaches we are already beginning to hear the prophets of doom, the naysayers who would have us believe that the influx of visitors is a akin to a plague of locusts and that we should pull up the drawbridge whilst exclaiming: 'Enough is enough!'

Wednesday, 25th July 2018, 6:00 am
Edinburghs festivals generate than £300 million for the Scottish economy. Picture: PA

Notwithstanding the fact that they generate more than £300 million for the Scottish economy and support up to 6000 jobs they also ensure that Edinburgh’s reputation is not only maintained globally but enhanced.

Still the detractors’ voices become even more shrill, conjuring up visions of traffic gridlock and mayhem, stating that the people of Edinburgh do not embrace the festival season, flying in the face of evidence; evidence that is not hearsay but rather gathered over the years by various organisations that have commissioned surveys which display mountains of research showing, without a doubt, that the vast majority of the people of this city are proud of the festivals and the international reputation that Edinburgh enjoys as a result.

Visitor numbers and the countries they come from have been rehearsed many times over and it invokes a sense of pride that they would wish to spend their time (and dare I say it, their money?) in our city. Other cities look on with envy at the cultural and economic impact the festivals generate and if they could they would gladly swap places with us – but no deal!

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Eventual winner Francesco Molinari in action on Saturday at Carnoustie. Picture: AP

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In my time at the City Chambers I applauded the cross-party support that the festivals enjoyed as councillors recognised that the baton had been passed to them and that there would be dire consequences if they dropped it.

That particular baton was the product of a marathon, not a sprint, and many generations had passed it on to the next.

Once again I say bring it on, let’s enjoy the festivities, young or old. August in Edinburgh is spectacular and so say all – well nearly all – of us!

A good Open golf trip spoiled

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to visit The Open at Carnoustie and although I have every sympathy for Mark Twain’s view that golf is “a good walk spoiled” I enjoyed the occasion immensely. Admittedly I did not see a golf club swung in earnest as we were outwith the boundaries of the course but I did have a great time in good company which was only marred by the train “service” provided by ScotRail.

As the train to Edinburgh approached the platform at Carnoustie railway station the crowd was in good humour and was anticipating a pleasant journey back to the Capital – but alas it was not to be.

Crammed in to an extent that would have made a sardine look like it enjoyed spacious surroundings, we then noticed that it was stiflingly hot – the air conditioning was not working.

Throughout the journey I could hear the complaints of tourists and locals alike, people from Texas, California and Illinois were vying with each other for space and sighing with relief every time the train opened its doors at a station which allowed some of the hot air to escape and provided a little relief for the, by now, clearly sweaty and upset passengers.

By the time I arrived in Edinburgh I had a face like a fishmonger’s windae and was desperate to reach fresh air followed by a suitable refreshment.

As for ScotRail? No announcement, No apology, and a fare of nearly £40 for a return ticket.

It’s time to bin the ‘Garden Tax’

During the city council’s Budget consultation exercise last year I predicted that one of the more minor but more contentious issues may prove to be the most difficult to implement. The so-called “Garden Tax” was always going to be a hard sell and so it has proved.

Notwithstanding the possibility of garden waste being illegally dumped, or finding it’s way into recycle or landfill bins the whole issue of registration for garden waste uplifts was always going to be problematic.

The fact that only 52,993 households out of the 123,804 eligible have signed up to the scheme raises serious doubt about its financial viability and although there may be opt-in periods later this year I think that it’s safe to say that, among those who require this service, it is extremely unpopular and unlikely to attract any significant additional registrations.

Another challenge will be that if the council goes ahead and implements the scheme it will have to ensure uplift times are strictly adhered to as this service is subject to a specific charge unlike the council tax, and having paid up for the “privilege” residents will not be easily appeased if the service fails to deliver.

This “Garden Tax” is turning out to be more trouble than it’s worth and the council could be forgiven for abandoning the whole idea.