AUTHOR Alexander McCall Smith, has warned that tourism is turning the Scottish capital into a “vulgar wasteland”.
McCall Smith fears Edinburgh will be “tourist tat shops, big hotels, and nothing much else” if tourism is not kept under control.
The writer wants the city to make it “possible for ordinary families to continue to live in town.”
He continued: “That will require some serious thinking by the planning authorities and the council in general.
“We will need to ensure that AirBnB establishments don’t take over the place.”
“In some cities the threat that this poses to the viability of local communities is now recognised and has been acted upon.”
Talking about his experience of living in American cities with “no sense of anybody actually living there” said: “It serves as a warning of what can happen.
“Bits of London are like that too, with astronomically expensive houses and flats lying empty, owned by people who live in them for a few weeks of the year, if that.
“We must not allow Edinburgh to become like that – and there is a danger that this will occur.”
Speaking as part of Edinburgh Marketing’s Edinburgh 2050 Vision Project, McCall Smith said people visit Edinburgh to see a “real place” with “ordinary people going about their business”.
He continued: “Firstly, we need to stop filling the centre of the city with hotels. We need hotels but we need to build new hotels on the periphery and not in the Old Town (or the New Town, for that matter).
“Hotels push houses out. Hotels take over premises that could be used for offices and shops. Hotels are fine, but cities should not be made up exclusively of hotels.
“Why would people come to a city full of hotels? To see other hotels? People come to Edinburgh to see a real place, with small streets and small shops, and ordinary people going about their business.
“Finally, we need to save our High Street. We need to ban the hanging of tartan merchandise out on the pavement.
“Our city won’t look after itself. We need to cherish it.“
Earlier this month, and not in direct response to McCall Smith, Edinburgh Marketing Chairman Gordon Robertson defended the place of tourism.
He said: “Everyone in the city must benefit from tourism. How do we protect our city as we grow? It is not by saying that our city is full and turning away visitors.
“We should ensure that prosperity generates benefits for all. It is an important and difficult time as we face uncertainty and turbulence on global, national and local levels.”
McCall Smith was commenting as part of Edinburgh’s “City Vision” debate.
The city’s Lord Provost, Frank Ross, said it was “fantastic” McCall Smith had joined in, adding: “We welcome all views and ambitions for the city and hope McCall Smith’s contribution encourages others to engage and have their opinions heard.”