Tory demands a merry Christmas from city chiefs

The Edinburgh City Council Christmas card 2011
The Edinburgh City Council Christmas card 2011
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EDINBURGH’S top Tory has urged council chiefs to bring back a traditional message for the Capital’s official Christmas card, complaining that this year’s card ignores Christianity.

The card produced for senior officials and councillors to send to constituents and contacts will this year contain the message “Season’s Greetings”, instead of the more traditional sentiment of “Merry Christmas”.

Councillor Jeremy Balfour, the leader of the Conservative group on the council, branded the use of the all-inclusive phrase “offensive” and “political correctness gone mad”.

But council chiefs have defended the sentiment, which features in the 2500 official Christmas cards, saying it is a “widely used traditional Christmas message”.

Mr Balfour believes that “Season’s Greetings” is not an appropriate message for a card that celebrates a Christian festival.

He said: “I raised this with the chief executive and council leader but they took the view that ‘Merry Christmas’ was not appropriate because we live in an inter-faith culture.

“I think we have to recognise the different religious festivals, and to take away the word Christmas from a Christian festival is disappointing and could be seen as offensive to Christians. This is just political correctness gone mad on the council.”

This year’s official council Christmas cards cost £653 to design and produce, or 26p per card.

Two separate designs feature winter scenes of Edinburgh, looking across to The Mound and overlooking the city and Edinburgh Castle from Calton Hill, along with images of stained glass windows in the City Chambers depicting St Giles and St Cuthbert.

All councillors and senior officials are able to order the cards to send to contacts.

But Cllr Balfour said he won’t be sending any and will instead send his own “Merry Christmas” message by e-mail.

He said: “I’m not sending out any cards at all this year. With the economic situation, I feel it is not the best use of taxpayer’s money and I will send mine by e-mail.

“I understand that people do want to send cards and in some cases that is appropriate but, in my view, you should have a choice between ‘Season’s Greetings’ and ‘Merry Christmas’.”

Ewan Aitken, a Church of Scotland minister and former leader of the city council, said: “Christmas cards are neither evangelical nor judgemental, they are about the sharing of peace, and it would seem odd that anyone should find that offensive.

“Other faith communities celebrate the Christian community festival and I find it odd to feel that sharing the celebration is anything other than a good thing.

“Why should it not be about the need for peace in the world, which is a key part of the Christmas message? ‘Season’s Greetings’ is fairly meaningless and asking people about peace is very meaningful.”

A city council spokesman said: “Our use of the message has absolutely nothing to do with political correctness. We hope that recipients of the card receive it in good spirit, however they celebrate the festive season.”