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Dispute over funding

Marketing Edinburgh board may quit in new council row

Gordon Robertson

Letter: Gordon Robertson (pic: Terry Murden)

Marketing Edinburgh’s board is threatening to resign over a new row over the city council’s commitment to the organisation.

The board will meet today after chairman Gordon Robertson sent a letter to councillors demanding clarity over its future.

There is speculation that the council may take all or part of Marketing Edinburgh’s responsibilities in-house.

In the letter, Mr Robertson said: “We are clear that council funding and support is required to meet the needs of the city and all those stakeholders who work in or are impacted by tourism. It is our belief therefore that you should support the plan with funding beyond April 2020.

“If you cannot or will not, the Marketing Edinburgh board would assume that best action would be for it to step aside and allow the council to appoint directors that share the council’s view and plan and immediately put in place what is needed to execute your plan.

“Whilst it may seem attractive in terms of short-term budget concerns, the long-term impacts will cause lasting damage to our city.”

The council was criticised earlier this year over deep budget cuts to Marketing Edinburgh. Its £139,000 a year chief executive John Donnelly went public with criticism of the plan and later stepped down.

“Despite this, its board has worked very hard to produce a strong plan to secure the future of a renewed organisation which meets the council’s goals for developing a sustainable, managed tourism industry.”

The council’s housing, homelessness and fair work convener Kate Campbell said: “I want to place on record my thanks to Gordon Robertson and the rest of the Marketing Edinburgh board for the significant amount of time and effort they have put into the business and I’m sorry they are considering stepping aside today.

“The board’s report contained some useful recommendations for how we, as a city, can manage tourism more sustainably for the benefit of our residents and businesses and we will be looking at these in more detail. Clearly, however, this must be done within the challenging financial constraints that we face as a council – something I’ve been clear on throughout.”

Conservative economy spokesman John McLellan, said: “Marketing Edinburgh has been under relentless attack by SNP, Labour and Green councillors who show absolutely no understanding of the key contribution it makes to the city’s economy and no consideration for its staff.”

See also:

Cash-strapped Marketing Edinburgh warns of closure

Council cuts plan has ’embarrassed’ us says marketing chief

New tourism chief recognises need for change

Donald Emslie, who has taken over as chairman of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, said a new strategy will outline how the city tackles growing pressure points.

In his first comments since succeeding Robin Worsnop, he said: “There is an acknowledgement that an anti-tourism feeling is an issue that we need to deal with and respond to. That will be recognised in the new strategy.”

The hospitality and former television executive said the industry faces growing challenges caused by the downturn in the retail sector, the climate emergency and changes in how holidaymakers are choosing their destinations.

“The industry is going to come under pressure from a sustainability point of view. Businesses are going to be facing new regulations and will have to rise up to the challenge of the climate emergency – consumers are doing to demand it,” he said.

“The industry will have to reflect changes in how people are deciding where to go on holiday, how they are going to get there and what they want to do when they are there.

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