Threat of ‘civic sabotage’ to future events after 'Underbelly debacle'

A community group has reported 'hundreds' of new members.

Monday, 6th January 2020, 6:00 am
Picture: Ian Georgeson.

A community network has hinted it may engage in ‘civic sabotage’ in future to rail against commercial events in the city such as Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

Mike Small, co-founder of Citizen, a community group which opposes ‘unwelcome development’, privatisation and over-tourism in the city, told The Observer that a campaign of ‘civic sabotage’ has been discussed by the group.

This could include organised crowds making a coordinated attempt to breach certain security barriers under public access and right of way laws while they are closed for events.

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It may also feature protestors filming events on smartphones to be broadcast on buildings elsewhere in the city, so crowds can watch the show without having bought a ticket.

Mr Small wrote in a New Year blog post that it feels ‘like a dam has burst’ as ‘hundreds’ of new members have signed up in the wake of tension over Christmas and Hogmanay events organised by Underbelly.

The group has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the influx of support as it launched its 2020 manifesto to ‘reimagine the city’ in 2020 as a place of social justice and equality over consumption and profit, Mr Small said.

The ten-point ‘Manifesto for the City’ aims to promote community-led development in the face of ‘unwelcome’ development, privatisation, and over-tourism.

It includes protecting public spaces including playing fields and football pitches, and promoting green transport such as walking and cycling.

The manifesto also pledges to promote fair rents and increased public housing over holiday lets and second homes.

“Hogmanay is a time for New Year’s Resolutions, ours is let’s reclaim our city from hidden networks and businesses carving up Edinburgh for profit,” wrote Citizen co-founder Mike Small in a blog post.

He told followers: “We have been overwhelmed by the numbers of people registering with Citizen after the latest Underbelly debacle."

“We can’t respond individually but every single one of you will be contacted in the New Year about our events and how to get involved.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of you.

“It feels like a dam has burst and I don’t quite know why, or why now.

A separate campaigner has launched a petition demanding Edinburgh City Council end all contracts with Underbelly due to ‘commercialisation’.

Underbelly co-founder and director Ed Bartlem said last week that the Hogmanay event brings ‘huge economic benefit’ to the city.

“I think that one has to look at the positives of events like Edinburgh’s Hogmanay on the city and even in Scotland.”

“It brings huge economic benefit to the city, £39.2m under the latest economic impact survey,” he said.