An outdoor Festival in Edinburgh, what future for our green spaces?

In response to the council proposal for a dispersed festival in August 2021, Graham Checkley defends our green spaces – they are not for profit.

Urban green spaces, such as parks, playgrounds, and residential greenery, can promote mental and physical health”, The World Health Organisation, 2016 [1].

Two months is a long time in Edinburgh politics.  In November 2020, there finally seemed to be an acknowledgement from Edinburgh Council that using parks for commercial events was a bad idea [2].  This was after the Underbelly Hogmanay event in East Princes Street Gardens resulted in a mud bath, a £150,000 repair bill [3], and the mooted destruction of soil structure, damage to tree roots and a long-term negative effect on drainage.

Then, in January of this year Edinburgh Council appear to have done a U-turn.  They are now proposing that the Edinburgh Festival be held as a series of dispersed events.  Guess where? in our parks [4].

They then go on tell us that the Covid-19 pandemic was “a good time to pause and consider what and to what extent our parks and green spaces should be used for.”.

Well, I think we already know the answer to that question.  The fact of the matter is that, for so many of us, these Edinburgh parks and green spaces are the only place where we can take exercise and enjoy nature during these terrible times.  I for one live in a tenement stair, sharing a small back green with 10 neighbours.  Where are we supposed to go when we to be barred from our green havens by commercial events?

A quality parks system worthy of international comparison; accessible, diverse and environmentally rich; which fulfils the cultural, social and recreational needs of the people.”, Edinburgh Council, 2006 [5].

We also see a similar ethos in the council open space plan for 2016-2021 [6], no sign in either document of the rampant commercialism to come.  Whatever happened to that vision for our parks and green spaces?

The answer is the money; they keep on telling us there is not enough, so commercial is the only way to go.  Have a look at the open letter in the AEIP website blog to COSLA and the Scottish Government, the money exists but we will need to push to get it [7].

For now, why not send a polite letter to your local councillors?  Particularly if they happen to be on the planning committee.  Here is a link to a possible format, please let us know how you get on!


  1. Urban green spaces and health – a review of evidence, World Health Organization, 2016.
  2. Princes Street Gardens will not host Christmas markets next year after Underbelly controversy, Edinburgh Live, November 2020.
  3. £150,000 bill to repair East Princes Street Gardens after Christmas Market, Evening News, July 2020.
  4. New outdoor venues away from city centre considered to help reboot Edinburgh Festival this summer, Evening News, January 2021.
  5. City of Edinburgh Public Parks and Gardens Strategy, Edinburgh Council, 2006.
  6. Open Space 2021, Edinburgh Council, 2016.
  7. Open Letter to COSLA and the Scottish Government, Another Edinburgh is Possible & Another Glasgow is Possible, 2021.

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