By Richard Morgan
SHOPS in Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile may be offered lower rent in return for banning displays of “tartan tat”.
The street, which attracts thousands of tourists annually, has been at the centre of a long-running row over shops selling cheap, tartan-festooned goods, often accompanied by over-amplified bagpipe music.
Fears have been heightened by the closure of two independent stores following big rent increases and concern the yet more “tartan tat” shops will open in their place.
The city council is now considering the idea that shops which concentrate on higher-quality merchandise will be rewarded financially.
Councillor Tom Buchanan, convenor of the economic development committee, said: “There is a place for shops which sell tigers wearing kilts and Jimmy wigs.
“But equally there is a place for a person who wants to sell upmarket Scottish jewellery or high-quality whisky.”
He added: “If I am losing a certain style of retailer, which happens to fit in with what we want on the High Street, simply because they can’t pay the rent, have I got an opportunity to look at rental policy and say, actually, we can give a rental discount to that company?”
Of the shops on the Royal Mile, around 40 are owned by the council.
Councillor Buchanan said he would be asking council officers to investigate the legal aspects of further rent reductions.
Other efforts to improve the image of the Royal Mile will include the introduction of a town centre manager, a “spring” clean of the area and setting up a partnership for traders.
James Rebanks, an expert on World Heritage sites, said: “I think the key is striking the balance between a tourist destination and being a good place to live.”