Fresh calls to tackle increasing graffiti in Edinburgh amid fears 'wannabe Banksy's' trashing the city

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Heritage chiefs have backed calls from an MSP for tougher action to clean up the city.

Edinburgh has seen a ‘noticeable increase’ in graffiti sparking warnings over ‘wannabe Banksy’ trashing buildings and communities.

A Lothians MSP has issued fresh calls for tougher laws and more robust clean-up action to discourage graffiti and tackle the blight, following growing complaints from businesses and communities. Heritage chiefs have backed the calls saying Edinburgh must send ‘a strong signal that such behaviour is unacceptable’. It comes as graffiti removal has been named as one of two areas of council spending which could be boosted by the tourist tax.

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Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said it’s time for tougher legislation to take a zero tolerance approach similar to the crackdown on fireworks. He has also demanded more robust clean-up initiatives to tackle the problem.

Miles Briggs MSP is calling for a crackdown on graffitiMiles Briggs MSP is calling for a crackdown on graffiti
Miles Briggs MSP is calling for a crackdown on graffiti

Mr Briggs said: “There has been a noticeable increase in graffiti across the capital with the number of reports of graffiti rising steadily over the last five years. During lockdown there was a significant increase in the amount of graffiti reported, with over 100 reports of graffiti being received by the council every month.

“Cleaning graffiti off walls and windows is an extra cost for businesses, many of which are already struggling. Business rates across the capital are already very high, so the least businesses should expect from the council is to prevent graffiti and clean it up quickly when it happens. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the extent of graffiti across the city is taking away from that. I am working on legislation to increase the penalties for those who graffiti on listed buildings.”

The most recent figures for Edinburgh showed an ‘explosion’ in graffiti as incidents reported to the council jumped from 433 in 2018/19 to 1,260 in 2020/21. Council bosses said figures for 2022/2023 are not yet available.

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Mr Briggs added: “If our historic buildings are not properly looked after, it undermines Edinburgh’s world heritage status. When tourists visit our city, historic buildings covered in spray paint does not give a good first impression. The graffiti of graveyards is very disrespectful and firmer legislation is required to crack down on people who graffiti in the capital. The supply of spray paint is one way that it could be tackled.

Graffiti on lane off the Royal MileGraffiti on lane off the Royal Mile
Graffiti on lane off the Royal Mile

“I have written to the leader of Edinburgh Council, Cammy Day, calling for a meeting to discuss how we clean up the Capital.”

Terry Levinthal, director of the Cockburn Association said: “There is no doubt that there has been an increase in graffiti. It is essential that graffiti is removed quickly, in order to restore amenity but to send a strong signal that such behaviour is unacceptable. Too many “wannabe Banksys” can have a serious impact on local neighbourhoods, making them appear less welcoming. This can have a knock-on effect of reducing footfall, which impacts on businesses and their vitality.

“We welcome the intervention by a local MSP, and although we appreciate the serious funding pressures the council are under, as a global city we must present a suitable commitment to the quality of place for all. Nobody wants to experience a graffiti-ed city.”

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Scott Arthur, environment convener, said: “We’re investing heavily in additional resource to make sure we keep the Capital looking at its best including an additional £0.5m in this year’s budget to boost our graffiti removal team. The crew currently has three specialist vehicles with fully trained operators equipped to remove graffiti across the city and power wash landmarks such as the Scotsman Steps, closes in the Old Town and other streets across Edinburgh where this is needed. We will be announcing more on this next week along with our plans to invest further in giving many areas across Edinburgh a deep clean where needed.

“As well as the welcome additional funding from this year’s budget we are also keen to speak to the private sector about how best we can work with them in partnership to keep our beautiful city free from graffiti and looking its best.”

Police Scotland has been contacted for comment.

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