Edinburgh Christmas market faces uncertain future after weeks of scandals

Image by 昕 沈 from Pixabay

Less than a week since the Edinburgh Christmas market opened its doors to the public, a fierce debate is ongoing about the future of one of the city’s biggest events of the year. EN4 News’ Christopher Lamb recaps the story so far. 

The Edinburgh Christmas market was seeped in a flurry of scandals during its construction in Princes Street Gardens, with its organiser, Underbelly, coming under heavy criticism.

The first signs of a scandal brewing came when images surfaced online showing the garden’s memorial benches dumped to the side in the early stages of the market’s construction. A number of residents were furious at the way the benches were “discarded” in a “disrespectful” manner with one tipped on its side.

The second bump in the road for the market came when passers by took photos of the shoddy scaffolding that holds up the market’s walking platform. This ignited the social media masses as people concerned with the structure’s safety aimed their criticism at Underbelly.

While much of the anger was targeted at the events organiser, Edinburgh City Council hadn’t managed to escape the barrage of fury unscathed either after it was found that the market had not received planning permission at the time of construction.

While it was finally given consent – just two days before opening – what proved to be more damaging was the revelation that Underbelly had not received planning permission at all for last year’s Christmas market

So what does it all mean for the event’s future?

Edinburgh World Heritage, the group tasked with protecting the status of the city’s various historic landmarks, has warned that this year’s market “must not set a precedent for future years”.

In a statement posted on their website, the group claims that the market’s current setup in Princes Street Gardens has disrupted “this magnificent environment to a very great extent”.

Following the planning permission scandal, councillors have now agreed to look into a possible move for the market next year, citing that they were aware of this year’s controversy. Alongside this review, they have also announced they will launch an internal investigation into whether the correct processes have been followed in its dealings with Underbelly.

While there has been plenty of criticism laid out towards the Christmas market and the potential of over-commercialisation, there are those who argue that the council should not turn its back on the city’s tourism industry.

The CEO of Essential Edinburgh, a group representing businesses across the city, has hit back at the critics of the Christmas market, stating that the council should “embrace and support” the tourism industry as it is an economic benefit for the city.

Speaking to The Scotsman, Roddy Smith said: “The citizens that work in retail and leisure roles may have concerns linked to the use of public space, but they are far more concerned about their jobs and income.

“The retail and leisure businesses in the city centre see this period as vital in their trading year.”

While it is hard to argue against the economic impact the market has on the city, it is clear that some residents feel as if they aren’t reaping the benefits.

With the Christmas market open for almost a full week now, there is no doubt this event will be seen as a success for Underbelly as record numbers of people pour in to take part in the festive activities. However, the council will need to listen to residents’ concerns about the future of the market to avoid a repeat of the numerous scandals we have seen this year.

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