Edinburgh Council leader blasts Ian Rankin and Sir Tom Devine for over-tourism comments as consultation extended

The city council chief has blasted famous writers and a historian - saying their comments on overtourism in the Capital amount to "coming out with ideas as if they have reinvented the wheel".

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 6:00 am
A consultation on a tourism 2030 strategy for Edinburgh has been extended

The leader of the city council has hit back at renowned writers and a historian over comments made about over-tourism in the Capital – accusing them of “coming out swinging on a complete tangent”.

Earlier this week, historian Sir Tom Devine teamed up with authors Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith to back a campaign by the Edinburgh World Heritage charity to help protect the city from over-tourism.

In the short film, McCall Smith said: “Edinburgh is a lived-in city and it has to be looked after. We can’t rely on government bodies and public bodies of various sorts.”

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Sir Tom added that “there is the threat of unregulated tourism and the potential destruction of eminent sites”.

A public consultation on the Capital’s 2030 tourism strategy, being coordinated by the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), has been extended after a poor response rate – and will now close on December 15 rather than Saturday as originally intended.

The draft tourism strategy indicates that the city will call on the tourism sector “to reduce its burden on the environment” and to “contribute more to residents’ quality of life” while there is a proposed change in direction “from driving growth to managing growth” of the industry.

Now Cllr Adam McVey, the leader of Edinburgh City Council, one of the partner organisations drawing up the strategy, has urged the trio of to feed their views into the consultation.

He said: “There’s no good in trying to have 25,000 different conversations across the city about what tourism looks like going forward and how we can make it more sustainable and how we can protect our build heritage and our World Heritage status.

“It’s just not helpful to have tangents throwing the conversation and actually giving people an impression that these issues are not being debated and are not being actively considered, because they are. People’s voices are really encourage to be part of that process.”

Cllr McVey is confident the proposals for the 2030 strategy “can take us quite a long way towards addressing some of the legitimate concerns that people have across the Capital city”.

He added: “We need to have that conversation together – not in silos or pubs or people just coming out with ideas as if they have reinvented the wheel.

“My challenge to anyone with an interest, be them an author, a historian or any other citizens doing anything else in our capital city is take part in the consultation. Tell us your views and tell us your opinions because we want to hear them a part of the policy document that we have put forward.”

Tories have called for assurances that once the strategy is agreed, it can be implemented effectively.

Conservative group leader, Cllr Iain Whyte, said: “We all want to see the results of the consultation.

“If there are high profile individuals in the media or elsewhere making comments, then I hope they will make comments to that strategy – that would be helpful at this stage.”

A spokesperson from ETAG said: “The extension of the consultation period for the new draft Edinburgh 2030 Tourism Strategy was agreed by the partners, as the ambition is to hear as many views as possible.

“Tourism is playing an increasingly important role in the city’s economy, but as in many other popular destinations, that success brings some challenges. Understanding both the opportunities and challenges is key to creating a robust strategy that will shape the future priorities of tourism in Edinburgh.”

To take part in the consultation, visit consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/ce/edtourism2030/

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