Covid-19: Edinburgh Christmas festivals cancelled

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Image source, Underbelly
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No events that would attract a gathering or crowd will take place this year

Edinburgh's Christmas festivals for 2020 have been cancelled because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

City of Edinburgh Council and event producers Underbelly said the decision followed the "latest advice" from public health experts.

Any event which could attract a gathering or crowd - including market stalls and rides - will now not happen.

The council said the focus would move to celebrating Edinburgh's Christmas online this year.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay street party was called off in July because of the pandemic, but organisers had hoped that other events could take place with access controlled to ensure social distancing.

However, the council said it was now clear the "best place" to experience Edinburgh's Christmas and Hogmanay would be from home.

Cases of Covid-19 are on the increase across Scotland and new measures designed to stem the rise came into force on 22 September, including a 22:00 curfew for bars and restaurants.

Adam McVey, leader of City of Edinburgh Council, said: "Whilst we understand the absence of popular events will bring some disappointment, we want to be clear that Edinburgh's Christmas isn't cancelled and our businesses right across the city will be offering their usual festive cheer for us to take advantage of.

"We look forward to announcing details of an innovative digital 2020 programme soon to help in these celebrations."

'Sad decision'

Events in Edinburgh over Christmas and New Year have traditionally included markets, fairground rides and a fire parade which starts the city's Hogmanay festival.

The city would have also marked its 28th Hogmanay street party, which has had a capacity of 75,000 in recent years.

Charlie Wood, director of Underbelly, said: "We very much wanted to bring some festive cheer and light to Edinburgh this Christmas and to support local makers and producers, at the end of what has been a challenging year for everyone.

"Public health is our absolute number one priority, and with the ongoing uncertainty concerning Covid-19 and the possibility of further restrictions, we have taken the collective and very sad decision with the council, NHS Lothian and Scottish government not to proceed with this year's Edinburgh's Christmas sites in the city centre.

"There will be no public events which might encourage gatherings of people at either Edinburgh's Christmas or Edinburgh's Hogmanay."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The festival is a boost to local businesses in the run up to Christmas

Russell Imrie, from the Edinburgh Hotels Association, said the cancellation of the festival would be "devastating" for businesses in the city.

"To put an event on of some sort, with Christmas markets dispersed through the city centre, at least it was something you could market for people to come to Edinburgh and it would be something for them to do with a festive feel about it," he told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime programme.

"To now hear that everything is cancelled, it almost removes the reason for people to come to Edinburgh during the festive period because they'll just be coming to a city like any other normal day over the winter period.

"At least when there was a festival on it really did feel like a special occasion to visit the city."