There’s an interesting piece in Bella Caledonia by Mike Small about how “overtourism” is doing to Edinburgh what it’s done to so many other places in the world.
It’s not just Edinburgh. The “North Coast 500” road route, an invention to draw in tourists, destroyed the road surface and caused chaos on rural roads thanks to sports car drivers. The isle of Skye is reaching saturation point in the summertime.
But Edinburgh is facing a perfect storm. Airbnb rentals focusing on the Festival are doing serious damage to the housing market (the numbers are up from 2,000 a decade ago to 10,000 now), damage that has seen its use severely restricted in other parts of the world. The use of public spaces for more and more boarded-off events is ruining the public sphere. Boneheaded planning decisions have turned the city into a perpetual building site. The basic infrastructure of the city is struggling to cope.
Some of the same trends are happening in my own beloved Glasgow, but we don’t have Harry Potter tourism, the Festival or much of an Old Town to worry about. Edinburgh’s a very different place from Glasgow and its problems are on a much greater scale.
Unless there is widespread and urgent opposition the trajectory of the city is clear: a city designed for and shaped around the rich and designed to exclude and exploit residents. The people who profit from the city are a tight network and the lack of transparency about ownership and decision-making is a well practised art form.
I’ve nothing against tourism, or the Festival, or gigs in public parks. But a city isn’t just a tourist destination or a playground for the very rich. It’s a place where tens of thousands of people live, love and work. It’s their city too.