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Christmas and New Year Celebrations (Edinburgh)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd January 2020.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

3. To ask the Scottish Government what funding it provides to support the Edinburgh Christmas and new year celebrations, and what criteria are applied. (S5O-04029)

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

I n 2019, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay received a £160,000 award from the EventScotland international programme to support the torchlight procession on 30 December, together with £48,500-worth of international marketing support. The EventScotland winter festivals fund awarded £3,000 to the Edinburgh International Magic Festival’s hogmanay house at Lauriston castle.

Between 2019 and 2021, City of Edinburgh Council will receive £400,000-worth of funding from the platforms for creative excellence—PLACE—fund to present international artists, working in collaboration with Scottish street theatre companies, as part of the street party at hogmanay.

We have started the year of coasts and waters 2020, and Edinburgh’s maritime heritage has been the focus of the latest message from the skies initiative, with a free event of poetry and outdoor light projections running until 25 January, supported by £150,000-worth of funding from the festivals expo fund.

The assessment process for, and the funding of, the festivals expo fund and the PLACE fund are administered by Creative Scotland, while EventScotland administers the winter festivals fund and the international funding programme. Different criteria apply to each funding process, and they are set out on the organisations’ respective websites.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

The minister will be well aware of the reported controversies surrounding this year’s celebrations—in particular, the concerns that commercial interests have trumped those of community wellbeing, and wellbeing more generally. We want local people and visitors alike to enjoy celebrating in our capital city, but we must commit to protecting Princes Street gardens’ precious parks, which are a much-loved part of the world heritage site. What can the Scottish Government do to protect our parks and public assets and ensure that our communities have full access to them?

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

Responsibility for Underbelly’s contract to produce Edinburgh’s Christmas resides solely with City of Edinburgh Council. For clarity, the Scottish Government has never provided any funding support for that festival.

As Alison Johnstone has alluded,

City of Edinburgh Council is debating the future of all the winter festivals, including the use of Princes Street gardens for Edinburgh’s Christmas and the hogmanay celebrations. I encourage residents and businesses to engage with the consultation on those matters, which the council will launch soon.

Alison Johnstone’s supplementary question conveyed the important message that such festivals attract people from all around the world as well as visitors from Scotland, including from the city of Edinburgh. As we move forward in our consideration of issues such as the use of public space, we should seek to enhance the celebrations and ensure that we preserve Edinburgh for years to come.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

The minister will be aware that Marketing Edinburgh has had 89 per cent of its funding cut because of the Scottish Government’s cuts to council funding. Marketing Edinburgh’s former chief executive, John Donnelly, has expressed his concern that Edinburgh will soon be the only European city left without a marketing organisation.

Does the minister agree that, although we need tourism management to deal with the risk of overtourism in Edinburgh, the Scottish Government should also properly support the council financially, to ensure that we continue to attract new tourism in a sustainable way and provide consideration for local residents?

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

Questions about City of Edinburgh Council’s provision of marketing are for the council to consider. I reiterate what I said in my initial answer. As part of the award for Edinburgh’s most recent hogmanay celebrations, the Scottish Government provided £48,500-worth of international marketing support through the EventScotland international programme.