‘Severe public safety risk’ to stop Edinburgh artist selling prints after 20 years

An oil painting by Michael McVeigh
An oil painting by Michael McVeigh
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A well-known Edinburgh artist whose work has been displayed in top galleries including the Royal Scottish Academy will be stopped from selling his prints on Rose Street after 20 years following fears of “a severe risk to public safety”.

Michael McVeigh, who sells his prints outside the rear entrance to Marks and Spencer on Rose Street every Saturday, is set to have his street trading licence suspended by the city council’s licensing sub-committee. In order to sell goods on the street, traders need a licence for a particular stance.

Officers raised concerns about nearby construction work to the former British Homes Stores building and another property on George Street potentially causing a conflict between works vehicles and pedestrians gathering to look at Mr McVeigh’s art.

Senior transport team leader, Chris McGarvey, said: “There’s two major developments happening. This is bringing additional traffic so we are concerned about the location of the street trader. I’m assuming that there will be some occasions when this work has to happen at weekends.

“People will be congregating and looking at what is being traded – it’s an additional risk in my opinion. There are larger vehicles that can access that area at all times. It is a risk and it’s for drivers to take care when they are driving around those corners.”

Mr McVeigh pleaded with councillors to be able to keep trading – and criticised the authority for placing a bin where he sells his work.

He said: “I was only there on a Saturday but my street licence was for the whole year. I don’t operate during the week but on Saturdays when the streets are quieter. You put a great big bin on my stance on Rose Street – right in the middle of it.

“There’s another wall just down from it which I used this Saturday because I couldn’t use the other wall because of the bin. I have got permission from the owner to use the wall.”

He added: “I don’t like being poor – this is my only way of making a living. I have done it for 20 years. I do feel as though I make a contribution.”

Licensing convener, Cllr Cathy Fullerton, told Mr McVeigh that he was “not being picked on”, adding “This work is going to go until 2020 and there’s a severe risk to public safety.

“We all want to support Mr McVeigh – he’s been a trader for a long time. There are certain businesses on Rose Street that don’t want street traders outside their windows.

“I’m proposing that we grant your licence this month and you come back next month to get it suspended. Officers will be asked to find another suitable location to trade from.”

A disappointed Mr McVeigh blasted the committee for inviting him back next month for his licence to be suspended.

He added: “I think it’s very inadmissible of you to not let me try and move further down the street. The work has been going on for a year and I’ve been there for a year every Saturday. It sounds like you’re going to give me nothing now and then I’m going to come back and I’m going to get nothing again.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com