Amplified busking crackdown demanded to protect Edinburgh residents from noise

Liberal Democrats are calling for a crackdown on amplified entertainment in the city centre to prevent residents from being treated like “exhibits in a goldfish bowl”.
Police have limited powers to tackle busking. Picture; John DevlinPolice have limited powers to tackle busking. Picture; John Devlin
Police have limited powers to tackle busking. Picture; John Devlin

Cllr Neil Ross will table a motion at Thursday's full council meeting, calling for an investigation by the authority on how amplified music such as busking can be better managed.

The council has limited powers to deal with amplified music in public places while police can request people to stop performing when they are causing a disturbance. If buskers don’t comply, equipment can be seized.

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But Lib Dem councillors are calling for a joined-up strategy from all council departments to tackle the issue.

Cllr Ross said: “As elected representatives of this city, all 63 of us have a responsibility to manage the city, to provide clarity and to promote a balanced approach for residents and visitors alike.

“We have to take on board what residents are saying. There’s no individual magic wand to address this – it needs to be a coordinated approach.”

Police and council officials request that buskers perform between the hours of 9am and 9pm, play at a “considerable volume” so passers-by can hear them but “nearby businesses and residents are not disturbed”.

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Buskers are also told to move onto another pitch at least 50 metres away after one hour of performing and they should stop performing if anyone complains about them.

Liberal Democrat culture spokesperson, Cllr Hal Osler, said: “This is to do with getting a balance. Events and festivals have to apply for a licence. There’s an understanding of what steps need to be gone through.

“We wish for the festivals to continue to be successful but there needs to be a balance. This is purely to do with the amplification element – there has been a huge increase in it.

“We want people to know what’s acceptable and unacceptable and what residents can do if those rules are breached.”

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She added: “This is something that should have been addressed and we are slightly disappointed we have had to bring a motion forward about it. We are having to bring the administration kicking and screaming to do it.

“We all love the festivals but we can just go home and close our doors – but there are people who don’t have that luxury. Residents are not exhibits in a goldfish bowl – they also have the right to be listened to. It’s important we remain a vibrant, living city. We don’t want to make our city centre a ghost town.”

Buskers are asked not to set up a pitch within 50 metres of another performer, not to spread equipment out to get in the way of pedestrians or busk near doorways or cash points. Performers should also not act or speak aggressively to people when being asked to stop.

The Lib Dems want the issue to be considered by the over-arching sustainability and policy committee – but the SNP-Labour coalition are expected to demand it is dealt with by the transport and environment committee.

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A council spokesperson said: “The council welcomes responsible busking, which provides a source of entertainment for many, but we encourage buskers to be considerate to those living and working nearby.

“Additional signs have recently been erected in the city centre providing buskers with advice on performing responsibly.”