THEY gathered in excitement at the foot of Leith Walk to watch as this year’s Christmas lights were to be switched on.
But the hundreds of onlookers were left disappointed when many faulty illuminations failed to light up.
Now council bosses have been branded “Scrooges” over a lack of funding for new festive decorations in Leith, after the switch-on ceremony was marred by the malfunctioning lights.
The special event, on Thursday, was attended by school children from Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce, Edinburgh’s Gaelic school, who joined Hibernian stars Florian Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren to launch the festive season.
Organisers Leith Festival, who spent more than £350 on a ceremonial button for the event, said council funding cutbacks had left the area with little Christmas cheer.
Local councillor Gordon Munro said the lack of funding to improve decorations in the area had been a long-running issue and called on the local authority to “let there be light” on Leith this Christmas.
He said: “If you look at places like Gorgie and Dalry, they are festooned with lights. If we had even half of them in Leith, it would be a hundred times better.
“I remember a few years ago, when Tony Mowbray was the Hibs manager, he brought a few of the players down to switch on the lights. They hit the button and the lights kind of flickered on. Tony just turned to the two players and told them: ‘You’ve got to remember, boys, it’s not the Champs-Elysées’.”
Cllr Munro added: “I don’t know why, but when it comes to Leith, the council seems to turn into Scrooge.”
He continued: “Leith used to have two sets of lights – there was this enormous red star on the Kirkgate, it would guide people home from the pub. But now it is absolutely paltry by comparison.”
Rita Crombie, from Leith Festival, agreed a lack of funding from the authority meant there was little cash to fund extra decorations.
She told the Evening News the lack of funding available risked cancelling the event in future.
Rita added: “It has become a struggle to keep the switch-on ceremony going.
“This is the third year that the council did not supply the stage or the sound system as in previous years and this has been a big drain on our finances.
“This is Leith Festival’s 12th ‘Christmas in Leith’ and it would be good to think that an event which has become a local tradition would go forward, but who knows?”
It comes just weeks after residents came together to decorate a “bare and boring tree” in the Kirkgate after an image of the forlorn spruce was posted on social media. The appeal was shared on the I Love Leith Facebook group, leading to locals arriving to adorn it with tinsel, baubles and Christmas stockings in an attempt to give the tree a more seasonal feel.
Cllr Munro said: “The fact that local Leithers are decorating it themselves shows you how much the decorations mean to them.”
City of Edinburgh Council was unavailable for comment.