Festive lights axed from city high streets to save cash

The switching on of Corstorphine christmas lights with carol singing from the Gang Show.
The switching on of Corstorphine christmas lights with carol singing from the Gang Show.
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HE’S the furry recluse created by Dr Seuss and famous for his dastardly scheming and simmering hatred of the festive season.

But this time it’s not the Grinch who’s being accused of stealing Christmas – it’s Edinburgh Council.

City leaders have come under fire after quietly revealing scores of high streets across the Capital will not get festive lights this year in a bid to save cash.

Corstorphine, Portobello, Morningside, Davidson’s Mains and Tollcross – along with 14 other sites – are all set to lose decorations that have been in place for decades.

A council spokeswoman said the lights that were used in previous years are no longer fit for use – and the city has no cash to buy new ones.

But community leaders insisted they had been told nothing of the plans, which aim to save £27,000 in repair and replacement costs and will leave many communities with just a Christmas tree.

John Barrett, former Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West and previously a councillor for Corstrophine, fumed: “Scrooge is alive and well and living in the City Chambers.”

He added: “I think they hoped it would slip through unnoticed. The last 20 or so years, we have had Christmas lights. It’s like Christmas has been cancelled this year.

“The saving of the cost of one overpaid senior official would more than cover three or four times the cost of the entire savings made by scrapping Christmas lights throughout many parts of the city.”

Residents in Portobello blasted the plans as “a great disappointment”, but pledged to light up the town centre themselves during their switch-on celebrations later today.

Geoff Lynn, chair of Portobello community council, confirmed he had heard nothing from city leaders about the plans.

“I imagine people will be pretty annoyed about this,” he added. “The Grinch has stolen Christmas.”

Bob Jefferson, one of the organisers of Portobello’s Christmas bash, said: “We are left with one tree. Santa Claus is going to come and switch on the lights on one tree. That’s all we’ve got.”

Steve Gregory, secretary of Morningside community council, was also in the dark. He said: “I think some people will be upset about it. People have already expressed unhappiness about the relative lack of lights on Princes Street.”

And one community leader from Davidson’s Mains told the News: “[The council] have effectively abolished Christmas.”

He added: “I think the only people who are aware of this at the moment are people who have been directly involved. Various people are saying, ‘Where are the lights this year? What’s happening?’.

“You’ve got main streets, such as those through Corstorphine and through Kirkliston, where there’s not going to be lights. And it’s all being done to save pennies. [The council] make a great big deal about consultation, but nobody’s been asked about this. Who took this decision and when?”

However, June Robertson, owner of Favers Candy Emporium on Portobello High Street and the brains behind today’s children’s street party, insisted the festive cuts were understandable.

She said: “In times of austerity, when people are starving in the streets, who are we to get annoyed about Christmas lights? I’d rather people got fed. The council are struggling as it is.”

Ms Robertson said Portobello’s Christmas tree alone costs the council £2500 to erect and maintain.

South Queensferry organises its own community lights, which were switched on last Thursday.

City leaders could not confirm exactly when communities had been told their Christmas lights would not be in place this year. But they insisted they were “working with communities and have informed relevant groups about this year’s provision of festive lighting and trees”.

Among those decorations set for the chop are the City Chambers star, which is currently broken, as well as street lights around the Royal Mile, North Bridge and Festival Square. But areas such as George Street will still boast spectacular displays such as the Street of Light.

This year’s shortage was only revealed after a question about festive lighting was submitted to last week’s full council by Colinton councillor Jason Rust.

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s festivals and events champion, said: “With no additional provision for new equipment, festive decorations are being spread across the city.”