Edinburgh St Giles Cathedral set to levy £6 charge on visitors - but Edinburgh residents could get in free
and live on Freeview channel 276
Up until now the Church of Scotland's most famous building has simply asked visitors to make a donation to help pay for its upkeep, with a recommended figure of £6, but actual donations average just 50p per visitor. Donations have also declined since Covid, while insurance costs have increased. And the kirk session, which is in charge of the cathedral, says it is increasingly unable to maintain the fabric of the building.
Earlier this year, the council authorised a variation in the deeds to allow a charge to be levied on visitors – there will be no charge for worshippers – but some councillors voiced concerns about how an entry fee would affect people just looking for a quiet place of contemplation in times of trouble.
A report to last week's full council meeting said: "The Kirk Session of St Giles’ Cathedral have intimated that, although they have not yet completed detailed planning on the likely charges, they have initially planned for a charge of around £6 per visitor. This is significantly less than the cost of many of the major city centre attractions and the charges levied by English cathedrals."
But under the Edinburgh Burgh Churches Scheme, which dates back to 1927, Edinburgh residents have a free right of access to St Giles’ Cathedral on weekdays, other than during services and the council had asked what the implications of a charge would be for that right.
A separate briefing for councillors set out the thinking of the cathedral on the detail of the charge and how it would be applied. It said: “There will be no charges for anyone attending services at the cathedral. It is also not intended to levy a charge for anyone wishing to visit the cathedral at other times for prayer or personal contemplation. This pragmatic approach is applied in York Minster and seems to work effectively.
“York Minister also adopts a policy of allowing York residents and students (with proof of residence) to visit without charge. The cathedral are thinking along similar lines at present. Finally, the cathedral are not currently thinking of levying charges for children or matriculated students from anywhere in the UK.”
It could mean St Giles following the example of Edinburgh’s Christmas, when it offers discounts to Edinburgh residents, in asking people to produce proof of address, like a bank statement, driving licence or utility bill, in order to get free entry.
The cathedral receives no financial support from the council, the Scottish Government or any other public source, which means the costs of maintaining, repairing and insuring the building, as well as staffing and energy costs for keeping it open for visitors, have to be covered by the congregation and donations from supporters and visitors.
The council briefing stressed that the details outlined reflected “the general thinking that has been done on a charging scheme and should not be regarded as firm plans at this stage”.