Business leaders urge Edinburgh to save Hogmanay street party and make winter festivals ‘better, not smaller’

Business leaders have warned council chiefs they would be “mad” to drop Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party and urged the city not to scale back its lucrative winter festivals.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 4:55 am
This year's Hogmanay street party could be the last large-scale new year celebration staged in Edinburgh city centre. Picture: Wullie Marr

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and city centre business group Essential Edinburgh called for the the city to ensure its Christmas and new year events were “better, not smaller” after a poll to shape their future revealed sharply divided opinions.

Around 73 per cent of business owners or managers said the winter festivals had increased their footfall and turnover.

The poll, which attracted more than 8,600 responses, found 87 per cent support for the Christmas festival continuing and 86 per cent backing for Hogmanay.

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Fireworks light up the sky above Edinburgh Castle as part of Hogmanay celebrations in 2015. Picture: Ross Gilmore

However, a shake-up of how the two events are organised is expected to be ordered by councillors to address concerns around overcrowding, the cost of tickets, disruption in the city centre and their environment impact.

Launched during lockdown restrictions, the survey found “mass gatherings”, such as the Hogmanay street party and torchlight parade, were the least wanted element of a new year festival in future.

The council is facing a dilemma after fireworks displays and live music came out as top priorities for future Hogmanay celebrations.

The current Hogmanay festival costs around £1.1 million in public funding stage, but is said to be worth £39m to the economy.

Funfair rides and bars were said to be the least popular elements of the Christmas festival, which was valued at £119m in recent years.

Essential Edinburgh chief executive Roddy Smith said: “Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations are renowned around the world and are an iconic event to attend for residents and visitors.

"Their success has been garnered by years of fantastic nights of celebrations, which showcase our city around the world.

“They may cause some disruption to some city centre residents for a period of time, and we must do things more sustainability, but we should not look to reduce its size and scale.

“Hogmanay is synonymous with Edinburgh and drives the hotel and visitor economy over the festive period. The council would be mad to drop the street party.

“With a large number of visitors to the city over Hogmanay, there is direct benefit to our hospitality businesses and retailers.

"Our city centre has and is being redeveloped to support worldwide changes to retail and an increased hospitality offering, with much of the inward investment geared to our wonderful tourist offering and events. We need to do things better, not smaller.”

Chamber chief executive Liz McAreavey said: “Our festivals put Edinburgh in the national and international spotlight on Edinburgh as a destination, helping support tens of thousands of local jobs in the process.

"The winter festivals are of huge value to local businesses, and the high level of support for them from businesses in the survey confirms this.

“It is interesting to note that while ‘mass gatherings’ are described as the least wanted activity, among the most wanted events at Hogmanay were the fireworks and music events – all of which draw very significant crowds and require to be ticketed in order to ensure they are well and safely managed.

“It’s important we ensure the quality and attraction of the winter festivals is enhanced and improved. Adaptation is inevitable, but we need to make them even better, not smaller.”