Board steps down

Marketing Edinburgh board quits in funding row with council

Gordon Robertson

Gordon Robertson: ‘no option’ (pic: Terry Murden)

The board of the organisation tasked with promoting Edinburgh has quit after councillors rejected its call to provide more funding.

Marketing Edinburgh, which was set up by Edinburgh City Council in 2011 followed through with its threat to resign last week.

It will lose all its funding amid steep budget cuts across the authority and 16 jobs are now at risk.

Earlier this year, the chief executive John Donnelly resigned claiming that the cutback in its budget would leave it unsustainable and that it sent out a negative message to the rest of the world.

The council tasked Marketing Edinburgh with being self-sustainable by April 2020, but a new proposal put forward by the group was turned down.

In a letter, the outgoing chairman of Marketing Edinburgh Gordon Robertson said: “All non-executive directors, including the councillors and myself resign with immediate effect.

“This is the only plan the board feels would meet the needs of the city by involving all, providing a forum for tourism beyond the current and driving change.

“We therefore have no option but to step aside.”

The city council will now investigate options to continue promoting conventions coming to Edinburgh.

Mr Robertson said the council was trying to maintain the jobs on a “quarter of the funding they are currently on”.

He urged the council to re-employ the 16 staff.

A new sustainable tourism strategy is being drawn up which will include a new dedicated tourism management job.

The council’s convener of housing, homelessness and fair work, Kate Campbell, said she was disappointed by the resignations, but thanked the board members for their work.

She added: “Clearly this will be an uncertain time for Marketing Edinburgh’s employees and they have to be our priority and focus now. Our officers will be working closely with them over the coming weeks and months to offer their full support and to look at what the options are for the future.”

Conservative councillor Susan Webber, who was among those resigning from the board, criticised the SNP-Labour council administration’s attitude to managing tourism.

She said: “As board members, if the council is not interested then we have to step aside.”

A former head of Edinburgh Hogmanay marketing defended the council’s decision.

Laurie Piper, operations manager, Moray Speyside Tourism, said: “We all know that government and council budgets are increasingly squeezed; that’s why Marketing Edinburgh’s funding model is one that is sadly no longer fit for purpose. Edinburgh Council’s decision was therefore inevitable.

“In Moray Speyside, one of Scotland’s fastest growing tourism regions, we have put forward plans for our tourism organisation to be funded by the businesses in the area we represent, through a Tourism Business Improvement District (Tourism BID).”

Mr Piper, who was Head of Marketing for Edinburgh Hogmanay (2003-2005), added: “While Moray Speyside’s tourism industry is in the best shape ever, the only way to ensure this continues is for businesses to support the Tourism BID. Without it, our region will no longer be marketed to visitors and our tourism industry will no longer have a voice.  

“I would urge Edinburgh and other areas of Scotland to consider this approach which empowers local tourism businesses, putting the industry at the heart of the decision-making process, removing reliance on public sector funding and providing greater opportunity for tourism to grow.”

See also:

Cash-strapped Marketing Edinburgh warns of closure

Council cuts plan has ’embarrassed’ us says marketing chief

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