REMEMBER that when you arrive in Edinburgh by train you are arriving into that of a novel, Walter Scott’s Waverley. A new chapter of the city’s story is a sad and poignant one.

News that Edinburgh Council is considering closing key leisure facilities across the city comes as something called the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) – “the umbrella organisation for the tourism sector in Edinburgh” – polls people on spending the money generated by the proposed visitor levy, a daily charge put on hotel and guesthouse beds very similar to tourism taxes in other European cities.

At the same time last week, the story broke that Edinburgh Council is considering closing a raft of facilities across the city, which collectively currently employ 160 people between them.

These include outdoor pitches and pitch venues at the Jack Kane Sports Centre in Niddrie, the Meggetland and Saughton sports complexes, Portobello Swim Centre, the Kirkliston Leisure Centre, the leisure facilities at Wester Hailes High School, Gracemount Leisure Centre and Glenogle Swim Centre (below) in Stockbridge.

The National:

There seemed to be some confusion about whether these closures were planned or being considered, with council leader Cammy Day relaying from MP Tommy Sheppard: “Tommy knows this is another made-up story from the SNP ... no proposals have been made for any closure.”

Edinburgh Live’s reporter Donald Turvill broke the story after a presentation entitled Venue Closure was presented to the board of Edinburgh Leisure – and shared with the Local Democracy Reporting Service – which showed the eight venues listed as part of “2024/25 financial planning”. The closures, if they go ahead, would save the city a little less than £2 million.

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These two things – the crisis in the city’s funding of basic facilities and the proposed visitor levy (or tourist tax) – are connected, or they should be anyway. The council is claiming a £3.6m funding shortfall but the tourist tax has the estimated potential to generate £37m annually.

The capital is a theme park

This should be a no-brainer. The tourism industry has fleeced people for decades and the entire city has been turned into a theme park. The city’s landlords and private companies have raked in the cash for a very long time while the very infrastructure of the city has been distorted by private greed, its municipal assets undermined and its public facilities spoiled. It’s payback time.

Rather than close down key facilities in working-class communities like Niddrie, Saughton, Gracemount or Wester Hailes, let’s enhance and expand them, and if we only a few years ago spent £5.7m on a revamp of Glenogle Baths (backed by almost 10,000 people in a petition), how on earth does it make sense to lose this asset?

The announcement of closures, and the attempt to pretend they weren’t happening at all (Edinburgh Leisure changed its position three or four times within 24 hours), represents the total short-termism of the capital city and its complete orientation and dedication to people who don’t actually live here. This dereliction has taken physical manifestation.

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You can see it in the city’s Central Library, which now has the light in its reading rooms shut out by the building of the six-star (six!) Virgin Hotel behind it, or the proliferation of the profitable “student accommodation” which pockmarks the city.

Or, indeed, the St James Quarter with its infamous “poo-emoji” rooftop. C

ommenting in the London Review Of Books, the writer Rory Scothorne notes: “You can’t buy what Edinburgh has. You can, however, rent out certain kinds of access to it. This ... is a recipe for self-destruction. The influx of international capital produces homogenisation, or worse, Disneyfication. The Golden Jobby would disgrace the skyline of any city.”

All this is up for grabs.

No-one really knows who runs Edinburgh – all we know is that the clandestine powers that be are organising to make sure that the Tourist Tax is redirected back into the hands of the tourist lobby and its associates to carry on the lucrative business strategies they have enjoyed for so long.

The Disneyfication must be intensified and the singular economic strategy, mass overtourism, must continue. “We simply don’t have the funds for a football pitch in Niddrie,” argue the city fathers in a town literally drenched in money.

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But as the council polls its citizens, Edinburgh’s own council leader, Cammy Day, has called for the new visitor levy to be introduced to help the city fund its festivals, including the loss-making Hogmanay street parties.

According to The Guardian’s Severin Carrell: “Cammy Day (below), leader of Edinburgh’s Labour administration, said the proposed visitor levy could help the city raise about £25m in extra funding for services and to subsidise tourism infrastructure.”

It will be interesting to see what the people’s response to the poll is, and what impact, if any, it has. But Mr Day’s position is incredible. Scotland’s capital is a city on its knees financially, that can’t apparently fund a football pitch or a swimming pool but has an estimated four million visitors per year.

The National:

In all the guidebooks and cheap history books, you will read the same tale of Edinburgh. How the slum-like Old Town was in stark contrast to the modern New Town with its grid-like formation and Georgian excess. It was a tale of two cities mirrored by the split persona of Deacon Brodie, the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

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But Edinburgh is as split and separated today as ever before. The housing market is grotesquely distorted by the legacy of short-term lets, and social cleansing has accelerated in recent years, exasperated by the festivalisation of everything and the regulation of nothing.

The idea that a tourist tax would be diverted back into the hands of the tourism industry itself is so absurd it would be a fitting close to the story of the city.

It would mean that the capital had effectively been captured completely and any effort to halt or slow the process utterly defeated. There would now be a closed loop of cash circulating through the hands of a rentier class and a handful of businesses and organisations while the rest of the city’s residents service that industry or languish in the periphery.

Edinburgh is a city of great storytelling and literature but that is a grim ending for any story – and one that is a disgrace if it is allowed to be written.