Edinburgh Christmas shopping: Why not give traffic wardens the festive season off? – Stephen Jardine

It has been a year of so much disappointment. As 2020 staggers to a miserable conclusion, we all need a little hope. Christmas should offer that, so this week I went looking for it.

The Jenners Christmas Tree was such a highlight of Edinburgh's festive season that there were complaints about the standard of the one in 2018 (Picture: Scott Louden)
The Jenners Christmas Tree was such a highlight of Edinburgh's festive season that there were complaints about the standard of the one in 2018 (Picture: Scott Louden)

For as long as anyone in Edinburgh can remember, the festive season really begins with the arrival of the Jenners Christmas tree.

Generations of Edinburgh children have been brought to marvel at the 40-foot monster and ponder how even miraculous Santa manages to squeeze it down the store chimney every year.

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This year, it is another pleasure now gone. Where the tree once stood, the odd bewildered shopper now wanders looking for the sort of trousers they used to sell at the back of the Sunday Post.

Jenners had been due to move next year to make way for a new hotel, café and restaurant but that plan has now been shelved and there it will remain.

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The last thing Edinburgh needs right now is any more hotels, cafés and restaurants. What it does need is people spending money.

Shopping in Edinburgh city centre has never been more depressing than right now. The bright lights and glitter leading up to December have been replaced by one-way systems and gallons of hand sanitiser. Every shop I visited resembled a wet Wednesday morning in February, not somewhere gearing up for its busiest five weeks of the year.

Outside, the Edinburgh Christmas street celebrations should have been kicking off this week. In recent years, it has grown into a £110 million extravaganza attracting 2.6 million visitors and transforming the city centre into a winter wonderland. In recent years, it has attracted criticism for becoming too big and disruptive but even its fiercest critics wanted it to be toned down, not switched off.

So the shops are desolate and the streets are quiet but there is one reliable source of footfall in the city centre, Edinburgh’s ever-present army of traffic wardens. At the height of the pandemic, they disappeared from our streets but they are back with a vengeance looking for anyone to dumb enough to assume they might be able to halt for a moment in Edinburgh city centre.

At one point on George Street this week, I saw more wardens than shoppers. So here is an idea. Why don’t the council to get them all to dress up in Santa suits?

They would brighten up the city centre and make up for the lack of Christmas markets and street entertainment.

I’m guessing that would infringe their human rights so instead, here is a better idea, why not give them six weeks off? What Edinburgh city centre really needs right now is people and attracting them would be much easier if they didn’t have to pay the price of a giant turkey to park for five minutes on Queen Street.

The council will say they can’t afford to lose the revenue, however, here comes the best idea of all. Scrap the white elephant tram extension to Newhaven which should have been binned earlier this year and put the money saved into measures to support the city centre.

Then it’s up to us. Online shopping is easy but if we want to have the bricks and mortar version in the future, we need to go out and spend right now.

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