MOVES to stop people from visiting Scotland’s capital city are growing apace, giving rise to hopes that Edinburgh’s famously sensitive and precious inhabitants can go about their business untroubled by crowds of anorak-clad yahoos pointing at edifices and taking pictures.

As one such inhabitant, I welcome these moves – including a call for people to stay away during the overly extroverted arts “Festival”. One hopes this invitation to stay away extends to the performers, who are often louche and lacking in morals.

My own moral compass is going haywire at the idea of taxing tourists to the capital as this is clearly just a means to fleece the poor creatures. I’m all for punishing tourists, but would prefer if this were done through the traditional means of fines and imprisonment rather than taxation to enrich the coffers of the council.

Loading article content

All councils are simply money-making rackets, their largesse mainly coming from a tax on people just for living in the city, in return for which, in the case of non-needy citizens like your correspondent, all we get are street lights and bin emptying.

I don’t give a hoot for schools or public transport, neither of which I use, and would happily see them abolished. But, hey, maybe that’s just me. (Greek chorus of readers: “It is! We can confirm that!”).

But what to do with the rampaging mobs who descend on the castle-plagued capital every summer and pump money into the local economy (read: into the pockets of hotel and restaurant chains)?

It’s not their fault they want to see the place and its interesting selection of chain-stores. Accidents of size and geology have made Edinburgh a much-quoted “place to visit”, a vaunted location that we natives always took for granted until we came of age and ventured forth to sundry other cosmopolitan municipalities and asked bewildered residents: “I say, where’s your castle?”

This week, a council survey found significant support among decent ratepayers in the capital for the idea of being compensated for the “inconvenience and disruption” caused by the 4.5m visitors who waddle aboot the place every year.

However, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) threw a wobbler and pointed out that such a tax would not only hurt foreign visitors but also those from the rest of Scotland, or Scotia Minor as it’s known in the capital. The BHA added that an additional tax would make Scottish tourism “even more uncompetitive”, which seems odd as it is clearly competing rather too well, hence the problem.

Interestingly, in the not strictly accurate sense of the word, Edinburgh City Council also found that the number of residents believing the festivals made Edinburgh a worse place to live had increased. Admittedly, that number was still disturbingly small but, all the same, welcome to the cause, my brothers.

While all this ballyhoo was unfolding, highly respected arts impresario Richard Demarco warned that big business was destroying Edinburgh’s festivals. He thought the festivals provided a kind of ersatz version of the city and advised visitors: “If you really want to know Edinburgh … for God’s sake don’t come during the festival.”

Wise advice, indeed. I wouldn’t visit any city or town during a festival, other than Haugesund’s herring and jazz celebration held every August in yonder Norway. Even then, generally speaking, I prefer to see places in winter, when they are more real.

I should point out that I haven’t visited anywhere new for about 10 years, which probably explains my churlish attitude to folk visiting my patch. I suppose if visitors walked properly it would help, but they tend to dawdle about, affecting a peculiarly bovine gait and disrupting the brisker styles of those of us who realise life is short.

Poor tourists. You have to feel sorry for them in a way.

Scotland: “Come and visit our beautiful capital city!”

Tourists: “Oh, all right.”

Scotland: “All these damned tourists are mucking the place up!’

Perhaps this is what’s meant by the irritatingly unpronounceable but oft-quoted expression “Caledonian Antisyzygy”, which refers to competing contradictions characteristic of the Scottish psyche.

You could see it recently in the Moon-influenced ravings of Scotland’s bizarrely pathetic political opposition parties.

Opposition: “Use the tax powers you already have.”

Scottish Government: “All right, we will.”

Opposition: “It’s a disgrace, they’re using their tax powers!”

And it’s seen in our ambivalence towards tourists. Dr Jekyll: “Welcome to our city!” Mr Hyde: “Right, pay the punitive tax, you damned foreign pests!”

It would serve us right if the tourists stomped their hooves and said: “Right, we’re no comin’. And if you want a herring at Haugesund, you’ll have to pay a tax.” But I guess they’re not as conflicted as we are.