Royal Mile plan to outlaw ‘tartan tat’ shops

In the future tourists may have to go inside shops to find tartan memorabilia. Picture: TSPL
In the future tourists may have to go inside shops to find tartan memorabilia. Picture: TSPL
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SHAMBOLIC shopfronts hawking cheap kilts and tartan tat would be outlawed under plans to boost the aesthetics of the Royal Mile by introducing a no-clutter bylaw.

New beefed-up regulations to control the appearance of outdoor window dressings are the next step in the battle to revive the nation’s most iconic street amid concerns about tacky façades undermining its unique character.

A legal route to stamp out jumbled frontages will be considered should traders flout a voluntary pact that has yet to be agreed.

The radical move is part of a wider project to revive the halcyon days of the Royal Mile when it was said by Daniel Defoe to be “the largest, longest and finest street for buildings... not in Britain only, but the world”.

Today, planning chief Ian Perry said the city has little power to curtail tactless shop owners who could face fines if they fall foul of a bylaw.

“We want to get the retailers into a voluntary system to say ‘we need to set some standards here and we have some examples of the standards we want to impose’,” he said.

“If that fails we will start to employ a regulation. At the moment we can remove some items – like things on the pavement – but it’s much more difficult with things hanging up.

“If the voluntary option doesn’t work we will look at imposing a local bylaw and then shop owners will be fined.”


But Royal Mile watchdogs say bylaws are “pointless” if they are not enforced and said traders routinely ride roughshod over a ban on A-boards.

Bill Cowan, who owns the Ah Ha Ha Ha joke shop on West Bow, said: “We don’t need any more laws we need to enforce existing policy. They already have regulations about A-boards that are not enforced, particularly at weekends.

“It’s a schizophrenic attitude to this. The council owns around 40 per cent of High Street shops and the estate department will always rent them out to those who can pay the highest rents. Those tend to be owners of tartan heritage memorabilia shops.”

Mr Cowan, also a planning secretary for Edinburgh Old Town Association, added: “Of course we would like to see the High Street less cluttered but more bylaws which are not enforced is not the way forward.”

Ward councillor Joanna Mowat, said the city had spent five years trying to mitigate the problem but had “failed”.

“People are constantly upset about goods being hung outside these shops because they think it diminishes from the attractiveness of the buildings and the street,” she said.

Council has some influence

OF 144 retail units on High Street, the council owns – and can therefore impose restrictions – on 44. The remainder are private-based lets over which the city has little control or influence.

To create a bylaw making cluttered shop fronts unlawful, the city would apply to a relevant government department which ultimately has to approve the sanction.

Before it can be confirmed, an advertisement would be placed in a local newspaper – in this case the Evening News – that states where the details of the bylaw can be inspected and inviting objections.