Edinburgh Councillors disagree on spending over £500k for birthday celebration

Sunday March 3rd 2024

Edinburgh Royal Mile

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

Plans to spend £500,000 on a ‘party’ for the Edinburgh’s 900th anniversary have been branded ‘shameful’ at a time when the city budget is being cut.

The capital is set to mark the milestone this year – but questions have been raised over whether the celebration needs a “massive injection of cash” from the local authority while budgets are strained.

Details of what events the programme will include are yet to be unveiled, but opposition SNP councillors criticised the spending plans agreed by the Labour administration, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives last month for having “no support for unpaid carers” but “£500k for a soirée”.

Council leader Cammy Day defended the decision to allocate money for it in the budget, saying it was the “right thing to do for a city as historic as Edinburgh”.

He also plans to seek corporate sponsors “to replace some of that [funding] if we can”.

The issue was raised again at the culture and communities committee on Thursday with SNP councillor Finlay McFarlane attacking the funding.

He said: “We are all aware on this committee of the strain our strategic partners are under and the pressures they are facing, not withstanding inflation and the cut to the budget.

“We’re all aware there’s a future libraries review ongoing that has no capital identified for modernisation and upgrades, we’re all aware our community centre estate is crumbling and I just think with all of that £500,000 on a party for the city is shameful.

“Whether it needed a massive injection of cash when they’re sitting at their planning meetings with gold-leafed agendas, I just think it’s shameful.”

Cllr Day defended the funding, saying: “It’s not about a birthday party, it’s celebrating 900 years of the capital city in Scotland. At the same time St Giles will celebrate 900 years.

“It is about celebrating internationally 900 years of the capital city in Scotland, i think that’s something we should be proud of. It’s a small amount of the budget that’s been put into it, we will also look for corporate sponsorship to replace some of that if we can.

“I think it’s the right thing to do for a city as historic as Edinburgh which has an international presence that we put something into celebrating 900 years.”

Lib Dem councillor Hal Osler also defended the proposals however, and said: “I do think it’s important we do celebrate it as a city because we are are a cultural city. We are all aware of the background of our cultural industries and the struggled they’ve had.”

She tabled an amendment to ensure any “left over” cash is redistributed to cultural organisations supported by the council, which was passed by the committee.

The move was branded a “slight potential u-turn” by Cllr McFarlane.

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