By Cara Sulieman
COUNCIL chiefs in Edinburgh want to crack down on “tartan tat” shops marring the main tourist street to improve the image of Scotland’s capital.
City of Edinburgh Council revealed plans to clean up the Royal Mile – where it owns most of the shops – by dictating the type of products that can be sold.
It follows concern from local business groups about the growing number of souvenir shops on the iconic road.
Council bosses said that they want to be more proactive in managing the appearance of shops and influencing what they sell.
But opposition politicians warned that the council had to “carefully consider” any intervention.
The plans have been welcomed by business groups who say that more variety is needed on the cobbled street.
Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is long overdue. This is the pre-eminent tourism street in Scotland and the street all visitors – however long they spend in the city – want to walk.
“I don’t know how it has happened but suddenly there is almost only one type of retail offer on that street; the ubiquitous tartan shop.”
He went on to say that although the tourist shops were meeting demand, more variety is needed.
Mr Birse added: “We need to be a bit more aggressive as a city.
“We have to discontinue some of these leases and think about the offer and brands that support the high-quality image Edinburgh wants.”
Edinburgh City Council owns around 35 shops on the Royal Mile, with tenants including the Gold Brothers, James Pringle, Bay of Bengal and The Cigar Box.
It also owns a further seven units through the Edinburgh Retail joint venture with the EDI Group.
The plans were announced in a new “physical regeneration plan” drawn up by officials.
The report said “There is, for instance, an opportunity to improve the retail offer on the Royal Mile, where the council as owner of many of the retail units could be more proactive in managing the look and product.”
Councillor Jason Rust, economic development spokesman for the Conservative group on the council, said: “While the council as an owner should have a sense of responsibility for the street, any intervention from the council has to be carefully considered.”
However Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “It is important the council has a long-term strategy in place to achieve best value for the city while, at the same time, promoting a balanced retail offering for residents and visitors alike.”