Edinburgh Old Town residents say dumping ground courtyard off High Street is a 'fire waiting to happen'

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Residents said the courtyard is used as a ‘dumping ground’ sparking fears about fire safety.

Furious residents have hit out at tourist shops in Edinburgh’s Old Town that are using the courtyard joined to their closes as a ‘dumping ground’ and storage area.

People living in flats off Bailie Fyfe’s Close and Paisley Close said that piles of boxes, whisky barrels, wood up to a storey high and open rubbish bins are a ‘fire waiting to happen’. It’s claimed nothing has been done about their complaints, despite a recent fire in one of the bins which caused ‘terrifying’ explosions and damage. Residents say the situation, which affects more than forty households, is getting worse, creating a constant worry for them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Iain McKinna, who lives in one of the flats, has contacted one of the shops which he says regularly stores truck loads of products in the courtyard. But he hasn't received a response. The Scottish Experience shop on the High Street which sells tartan and other Scottish goods has a basement storeroom linked to the courtyard, which is also used by Whisky & Wine and Celtic Crafts Centre Kiltmakers to store gates and commercial bins.

The Courtyard joins two closes in the Old TownThe Courtyard joins two closes in the Old Town
The Courtyard joins two closes in the Old Town

Now it’s feared the problem could get worse as the courtyard is set to form part of the public entrance to a new hotel currently under construction and expected to open in 2024.

He said: “The courtyard has become a dumping ground. It’s beyond a joke and another fire waiting to happen. It’s hard to believe nothing has been done since a bin left open was set alight before. There was a terrifying explosion. I had neighbours banging at my door scared the fire was going to spread to their house. Two days after the fire bins were left open again. Now there’s whisky barrels out there, loads of boxes and pallets and it’s every day. When rubbish piles up people get very nervous. It’s used for delivery to several shops. We see lorry loads of goods like tartan scarves being dropped off there."

Mr McKinna also runs a recording company based on the High Street and has worked with Irvine Welsh and KT Tunstall. He added: "I am not having a go at businesses for using space for storing goods. But it’s not safe and someone needs to take responsibility. Artists who come in and use our studio have been horrified and we see tourists turning about and leaving. This is a world heritage site area. I just don’t understand how it can be allowed to continue.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

One resident said: “My flat entrance is on Paisley Close which connects to the courtyard. There’s piles of wood about a storey high there all the time. It’s a total mess and a fire hazard. There was a fire recently at a pub and if it had spread in here, the stuff in the courtyard would have been a ready-made bonfire. All those tartan tat shops seem to be using it as a delivery hub for all their shops. I don’t think it’s reasonable. I doubt they have permission.”

Another resident who has written to a local councillor asking for help said the situation was a ‘wilful disregard for the safety and environment of residents for private gain’.

The Scottish Experience, Whisky & Wine and Celtic Crafts Centre Kiltmakers have been contacted for comment.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.