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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, June 15, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 15 June 2017

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Stink Pits, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Question Time, Education Governance, Edinburgh Festivals, Business Motion, Decision Time


Edinburgh Festivals

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-06073, in the name of Fiona Hyslop, on recognising and celebrating Edinburgh’s international festivals in their 70th anniversary year. I invite members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons.


I am delighted to open this debate on recognising and celebrating Edinburgh’s international festivals in their 70th year.

In 1947, the conductor Rudolf Bing co-founded the festival with Henry Harvey Wood, head of the British Council, Sidney Newman, professor of music at the University of Edinburgh, and civic leaders, most notably Sir John Falconer, who spoke of his ambition that the festival should

“provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”.

In the aftermath of the devastation brought about by world war two, arts and culture were seen as a pivotal means of reimagining a new and better world. Bing’s vision was of establishing a festival programme of ambitious and varied character—above all, in a city that would

“embrace the opportunity ... to make the festival a major preoccupation not only in the City Chambers but in the heart and home of”

citizens. How prophetic his words were.

The impact of the first festival resonated across the city and around the world, enabling Edinburgh to become the world’s leading festival city and acting as a catalyst for the formation of Edinburgh’s family of festivals. Indeed, 1947 was also the founding year of the film and fringe festivals.

Alongside the international festival, a programme of documentaries was presented by the Edinburgh Film Guild. The Edinburgh international film festival is now the world’s oldest continually running film festival; it bursts into life next week, exploring identity in the context of our shifting political and cultural changes. It will showcase 151 features from 46 countries and will expand into arts venues around the city.

Back in 1947, eight theatre companies arrived in Edinburgh. When they found themselves unable to participate in the festival, they sought out smaller alternative venues for their productions. Thus the fringe was born. Now the world’s largest arts festival, this year it features nearly 3,400 shows in 300 venues, with 62 countries represented. An open-access festival where no one is denied entry, it is the largest platform on earth for artistic freedom.

Ten years ago, Festivals Edinburgh was created as a strategic organisation focusing on overarching areas of mutual interest. Its sole focus is to maintain the festivals’ global competitive edge, and I applaud how well that has been done. It supports the festivals from behind the scenes—all the partners, the agents, the artists, the producers and the politicians who descend on the city—and I am particularly impressed by its momentum programme, which brings international delegations to view work, share knowledge and deepen relationships.

In 2007, former MSP Kenny MacAskill and I, as Lothian MSPs, recognised the need to provide more support to and opportunity for Scotland’s artists at the Edinburgh festivals. As a result of a 2007 manifesto commitment, the festivals expo fund was born, promoting the creation of new work in Scotland and international appreciation of work from Scotland.

Since 2008, the Scottish Government’s expo fund has provided £19 million to members of Festivals Edinburgh. It is pivotal in supporting the best of our cultural heritage, showcasing contemporary innovation and generating ambitious collaborations. It has enabled the creation of a legacy of important new work that promotes and maximises opportunities for the best of Scotland’s artists on an international platform. It has built innovation across the festivals, raises their international profile and exposes our creativity.

The made in Scotland programme, funded by the expo fund, has enabled 159 companies, ensembles and artists to showcase their work, with a further 57 productions touring across five continents, visiting more than 20 countries. “The James Plays”, which many members might have seen, was presented at the international festival in 2015. It has toured to Adelaide and Auckland, in Canada and across the United Kingdom, receiving critical acclaim and winning an Evening Standard award in 2016. The fund has also enabled the film festival to nurture new talent in the sector through the talent lab. Every one of our international festivals has received funding to develop and enhance their unique programmes and support artists working in Scotland.

This year, the Scottish Government provided an additional £300,000 of extra funding to celebrate the 70th anniversary year through three remarkable and unique pieces of work. The 70th anniversary year was launched with a spectacular midnight moment as part of Edinburgh’s hogmanay, supported by £90,000 from the expo fund. It drew the eyes of the world to this momentous occasion.

The Scottish Government supports world fringe day, which recognises the importance of all the fringes across the world, on 11 July. The year 2017 is the 70th anniversary not just of the Edinburgh festival fringe, but of the whole fringe concept: 1947 was the catalyst that ignited a global network of fringes, with more than 200 across the world today. Fringe festivals transcend national boundaries and create great networks, collaborations, friendships, debates and discussions.

The second international festival celebration event that the Scottish Government supports illustrates the concept of the flourishing of the human spirit that I referred to, through bloom, a complex and strikingly beautiful night garden brought to life through illuminations and 3-D mapping.

The third project, which will be announced at a later date, is being developed by the Edinburgh’s film, science and children’s festivals.

With reference to the Conservative amendment, the Scottish Government has been a strong supporter of and fully engaged in the development of the proposed IMPACT performance venue since my initial conversations back in 2013, when I met the Royal Bank of Scotland and the donors, who saw great value in the proposal. I took the subsequent decision to fund the initial feasibility study, which was conducted by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Since that time, we have been in discussion with partners involved in the Edinburgh and south-east Scotland city region deal to secure their support for the venue. I am pleased that the negotiations have progressed to this stage and that the United Kingdom Government has confirmed its support.

The project will secure a critical new performance venue in the centre of Edinburgh, provide a home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and be used exclusively for festival performances in August. The economic and cultural inclusion benefits of such a venue will be felt widely across Edinburgh and the surrounding regions and will reach out across Scotland, to build new audiences and embrace a variety of musical genres. In the face of increasing national and international competition, the venue will optimise Edinburgh’s position as an international festival city and Scotland’s reputation as a leading centre for music and the performing arts. The project will be truly transformational for a wide range of communities through its reach, innovation, quality and impact.

I welcome the spirit of the Conservative amendment, and I look forward to concluding the city deal details with the UK Government when it is ready to restart discussions.

Of course, the festivals have many funders and partners. They include Creative Scotland, Event Scotland, VisitScotland, the City of Edinburgh Council, the British Council, trusts, foundations, public and private philanthropists and audiences from Edinburgh and beyond. Collectively, they enable our festivals to be the best in the world.

The festivals’ economic contribution was underlined in the 2015 Edinburgh festivals impact study. The festivals are recognised as a world-leading brand, with audiences of a staggering 4.5 million, which is on a par with the FIFA world cup and second only to the Olympics. The festivals act as an economic powerhouse, generating an economic impact of £280 million in Edinburgh and £313 million in Scotland in total.

Yesterday saw the launch of the spirit of ‘47 strand of the international festival, which is curated with the British Council. It presents—perhaps Lewis Macdonald will reflect on this when he comes to move his amendment—a rich global programme that will examine how culture connects us across borders and divisions. The new European songbook project brings together respected European musicians and non-European Union artists who have made their home in Europe during the recent wave of migration.

The festivals support the seamless flow of artists from Europe and nations elsewhere to ensure that Edinburgh maintains its international position. We will have to work hard to ensure that the festivals are not debilitated or disadvantaged by Brexit. The festivals support our thriving and fast-growing cultural sector, which relies on creative people building skills, expertise and knowledge through exchange and dialogue with others. Access to the ideas, talent, experience and creative exchanges that freedom of movement provides is essential to enable all our industries to flourish and thrive—including, importantly, our festivals. That must be part of the UK Government’s reconsidered Brexit.

The festivals are distinctly Scottish yet profoundly international, drawing artists, audiences and media from every continent, with people from more than 70 countries attending each year. Edinburgh’s festivals define and promote Scotland’s identity as a confident, creative and welcoming nation. They support our international outlook by providing cultural platforms and forums for national and international debate.

Last year, the Scottish Government engaged with representatives of 27 nations during August. Individual countries choose Edinburgh to host their own showcases, and this year we will welcome Canada, Ireland and India. We will also welcome South Australia and many others.

The festivals challenge us and enable us all to step out of our own lives to experience something new and unique. They bring people together to germinate new ideas. They help us to understand other cultures and experiences. They celebrate human expression in all its guises of sorrow, laughter, joy and beauty.

I urge the Parliament to come together to recognise the outstanding contribution of the Edinburgh international festivals to Scotland and the world, and I pay tribute to the passion, commitment and talent of all the artists and audiences who have contributed to a remarkable 70 years.

I move,

That the Parliament recognises the success and impact of Edinburgh’s world-leading international festivals, which are in their 70th year; notes that the festivals, their partners, supporters, funders, artists and audiences make an invaluable contribution to Edinburgh and Scotland’s communities and wider society, economy and culture, and acknowledges and celebrates the impact that the festivals have made establishing Scotland’s place internationally as innovators, thinkers and cultural leaders, and for providing a welcome to the world, while maintaining and growing their world-leading status.


As an MSP who represents the Lothian region, it gives me great pleasure to open the debate for the Scottish Conservatives.

Today we recognise the extraordinary success of Edinburgh’s international festivals in their 70th year. The festivals have gone from strength to strength, with growing numbers of visitors attracted to Edinburgh each summer and with an ever-increasing number of festivals.

The city of Edinburgh and, indeed, Scotland have shown that Rudolf Bing, the man credited with bringing the festival to the city in 1947, knew what he was doing. However, even he might have been surprised to see how many events now take place every year. In just a few weeks, Edinburgh will take the lead in celebrating the international success of the festivals with world fringe day on 11 July. More than 200 open access events will take place—in Edinburgh and as far afield as Australia—reflecting not only how successful Edinburgh has been as international festival leader but how popular the appeal of the fringe model now is across the globe.

Another year of events will then begin, with the international festival itself, the fringe festival, the film festival and the jazz and book festivals, to name but a few. We should not forget what is often seen as the real jewel in the crown at Edinburgh castle: the Edinburgh military tattoo. It is an extremely popular event that many of the people of Edinburgh have attended and which I myself have attended on occasion. As I and others are aware, obtaining tickets can be quite an art in itself—and that for an event that has been running since 1950. Any member who has yet to experience the thrill of the tattoo is well advised to attend, but they should buy their tickets early.

As a resident of Edinburgh who works, as we all do, at the foot of Scotland’s Royal Mile, I will not be the only one struggling to walk to the top of the High Street during July and August. However, as an advocate who worked in the courts behind St Giles cathedral, I had many years of even more direct experience of that struggle.

I well remember a colleague of mine, who shall remain nameless, being pursued down the High Street by a street artist waving a pair of underpants, shouting after him, “Sir, you’ve forgotten your briefs.” As members know, “briefs” is the name for counsels’ instructions from solicitors—we were all highly amused by that.

That incident was perhaps bettered only by hordes of teenage girls pursuing a number of junior advocates, dressed in morning dress, in various directions from the corner of St Giles cathedral. We found out that the occasion was a rumour that Robbie Williams had purchased a flat in the newly refurbished former corner court building behind the cathedral. The girls mistook various advocates for Robbie Williams’s butler, pursuing us in the hope of meeting Robbie himself, until they realised, in utter disappointment, that there were too many of us for that to be true. That was indeed comedy, provided in real time.

The people of Edinburgh take great pride in welcoming all who come to experience our comedy—real life or otherwise. Whatever the apparent inconveniences, 89 per cent of local people who attend the festivals acknowledge that the yearly event increases people’s pride in their city.

It is quite staggering that, in 2015, there were more than 4.5 million attendees, bringing £280 million to our economy in Edinburgh and £313 million to Scotland as a whole. Those figures are both substantial increases on the figures that were recorded five years earlier in 2010.

I acknowledge the role that is played by the 25,000 or so performers and entertainers in making the Edinburgh international festivals what they are. Although we very often think of the household names that grace the stage of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre with sold-out gigs evening after evening, we should congratulate others who might not benefit financially in the same way from the festivals, but who nevertheless come to Edinburgh to do what they do best. They perform in the melting pot of the good, the bad and—we must admit it—the sometimes ugly shows in the festival. Some spend literally thousands of pounds of their own money, much of which might never be recouped, on travelling to Edinburgh, hiring out venues and putting on their show. Without them, we would not be here today speaking about the success of the Edinburgh international festivals.

Edinburgh is an important gateway to our country and the Edinburgh festivals 2015 impact study, which was published last year, showed us that visitors to the festivals now spend more nights elsewhere in Scotland—outwith Edinburgh—than they did five years ago.

Despite the political and economic challenges that our country faces, figures for festival attendances remain buoyant, with fringe ticket sales up by more than 7 per cent in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of overseas tourists to Scotland continues to rise at ever-increasing rates. In 2016, there was a 6 per cent increase in overseas tourist numbers, which was accompanied by a 9 per cent increase in tourist spending. Much of that increase was down to North American tourists, showing that destinations—and Edinburgh and Scotland more widely—matter more than distance or other factors in a tourist’s decision on where to travel.

It is to be welcomed that the Scottish and UK Governments continue to support Edinburgh and its festivals. As we celebrate the 70th anniversary, I am pleased that the Scottish Government has provided additional funds.

I hope that support for the development of the new Edinburgh concert hall through the proposed Edinburgh city deal—which the cabinet secretary referred to—along with UK Government support, will reinforce Edinburgh’s role as a world-leading festival city, and that the concert hall will be a leading centre for music and the performing arts.

Throughout the year, the proposed hall will continue to draw eminent musicians, actors and other performers from around the globe into the city, ensuring that Edinburgh, a city with a great artistic tradition and heritage, maintains its continuous exchange of creative talent, not just in August, but throughout all 12 months of the year. I am pleased that the Scottish Conservatives will support the Labour amendment in the name of Lewis Macdonald, which echoes those sentiments, as well as the Scottish Government’s motion, and I look forward to today’s debate.

I move amendment S5M-06073.1, to insert at end:

“, and welcomes UK Government proposals to support the development of the new Edinburgh Concert Hall under Edinburgh’s City Deal.”


Seventy years on, there is, indeed, much to celebrate. The Edinburgh festivals have achieved truly global status. Hundreds of venues provide a stage for thousands of artists, who perform to a combined audience of hundreds of thousands and generate millions of pounds in benefits to the Scottish economy. Great numbers of visitors from around the United Kingdom, Europe and around the world all contribute to Edinburgh as a world city and put Scotland firmly on the map for the whole range of performing arts—and also film, as the cabinet secretary mentioned.

Any anniversary celebration should, of course, start with where things stood when it all began. The Edinburgh festivals were created as an act of policy following one of the most traumatic episodes in human history. Like the first world war, the second world war was hugely destructive of people and places. There was also an all-out assault on the shared values of human civilisation and systematic genocide and vast impoverishment. It was a time of darkness, austerity and division.

The post-war Labour Government recognised the need to light beacons of hope in such a time. The creation of Edinburgh as an international festival city was one of the fruits of that policy, which was shared by all in public life in Scotland at the time. The truth that the festivals symbolised then is that the best answer to barbarism is to strengthen and celebrate civilisation, to meet destruction with creativity, and to promote hope, compassion and unity against those who would spread hatred, division and fear. That is what makes the festivals truly world events. It is not just about where people come from; it is about what the festivals represent.

We know only too well that hatred, division and fear stalk the world again. The same terrorists who sponsored murder in London and Manchester have committed outrages around the world, not least in destroying the physical evidence of human civilisations in the middle east. Just as the Edinburgh festivals lit a beacon of hope after the second world war, the great get together this weekend will be a direct answer to the forces of hatred that killed Jo Cox a year ago. It will mark the anniversary of her death and make it an occasion to celebrate our shared civilisation and values.

The spirit of ’47 is as important now as it was 70 years ago. I look forward to the 10-day festival within a festival under that title later this year, which the cabinet secretary mentioned. It will feature music, theatre, dance and debate on that internationalist and multicultural theme. Joining all those art forms with debate and discussion goes to the heart of what Edinburgh’s festivals are about. I am certain that the experience will be entertaining, inspiring and enlightening.

The festivals have, of course, gone from success to success and they have perhaps exceeded even their founders’ wildest dreams. The number of festivals has multiplied, the size of the audiences has grown, and the impact has extended well beyond the city to benefit every area in Scotland. As the cabinet secretary said, the scale of the festivals each and every year puts them in the same league as the Olympic games and the FIFA world cup.

Success always brings its own challenges, of course. In this case, success means that the festivals now matter for more than simply their cultural excellence; they are also vital to the tourism sector and the Scottish economy as a whole. That is why public funding is not just right in principle; it is in the public interest in a material sense, too. I welcome the Scottish Government’s expo fund and the initiatives that it supports, and I look forward to hearing more about the pop-up family festival, for example. I know that it will visit parts of Scotland later this year.

It is important to acknowledge that continuing public funding remains part of the recipe for the success of the Edinburgh international festivals and that it must never be taken for granted. This week, I looked again at “Edinburgh Festivals: Thundering Hooves 2.0. A Ten Year Strategy to Sustain the Success of Edinburgh’s Festivals”, which was published in May 2015. That strategy was supported by all the main local and national stakeholders in the festivals, including the Scottish Government, and its main findings still hold good today. It highlighted the risk to the festivals of cuts in local authority funding in particular and concluded that

“Large scale, radical solutions are now needed to replace eroding public funding and these must include potential alternative funding models, even if they present their own constraints.”

The festivals do not seek in any way to live off public subsidies. The international festival, for example, grew its earned income from fundraising and ticket sales by 46 per cent between 2009 and 2016, at the same time as grant income went down by 4 per cent.

The festivals are more than ready to help themselves. However, public funding enables the festivals to plan ahead and to invest for future productions with a degree of certainty and without depending entirely on current cash flows for investment to grow their future audiences. I know that the cabinet secretary understands that point and I hope that she will continue to engage with all the festivals and the City of Edinburgh Council to explore potential funding solutions for the future. If that is done creatively and constructively, the next 70 years can be as productive and as exciting as the last.

I move amendment S5M-06073.2, to insert at end:

“; believes that the ideals behind the origin of the festivals in the wake of the Second World War, namely that culture can break down borders and bring people from all nationalities together, are still pertinent today, and recognises the need to find solutions to the future funding challenge that the festivals face.”

We now move to the open debate. I have quite a bit of time in hand so if members wish to wax lyrical, I will be quite relaxed about that. I can also give extra time for interventions and to allow a bit of discussion, if members feel that that would be useful.


The 2015 Edinburgh festivals impact study points out that the festivals’ combined audience of 4.5 million puts them on a par with the FIFA world cup. In the interests of context, I thought of a comparison that is a little closer to home. The 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow, which were widely acknowledged to be a resounding success, were attended by 1.3 million people. Therefore, the Edinburgh festivals are the equivalent of having the Commonwealth games in Scotland three times a year every year.

Although we are right to emphasise the economic benefits that the festivals bring—they are worth £313 million to the Scottish economy as a whole—we should remember that, as members have pointed out, they were born out of idealism and not a desire for pecuniary gain. As others have said, the founder of the international festival, Sir Rudolf Bing, wanted to use it to build bridges across a world that had been torn apart by war. He was an Austrian-born opera impresario who, being Jewish, had to flee his home in Germany to seek refuge in Britain. We should bear that in mind, given some of the divisive language that is used today about refugees. If Rudolf Bing had not found safety here, we might not have been having this debate and our country would be so much poorer, culturally and financially.

The first Edinburgh international festival featured Glyndebourne opera, the Hallé orchestra and Sadler’s Wells ballet, which reflected Bing’s interests. However, even in that first year, there was more than that. As the cabinet secretary said, the Edinburgh Film Guild decided to run a week-long film festival, which developed into the international film festival. The Royal Scottish Academy extended its summer exhibition that year, so visual art had a place at the festivals right from the start and, of course, that has expanded in the years since then. That very year, someone had the idea of getting some pipe bands to play on the castle esplanade, and that event developed into the magnificent tattoo, which officially began in 1950, as Gordon Lindhurst told us.

Most important, however, we should remind ourselves that the festival fringe began in exactly the same year as the international festival, and it very much had its roots at home in the then vibrant Scottish amateur theatrical movement. In effect, the theatre companies gatecrashed the party that year. They included the left of centre Glasgow Unity Theatre, which viewed the official festival as bourgeois. It wanted to connect the festival to the wider public, and its two shows that year were Gorky’s “The Lower Depths” and Robert McClellan’s “The Laird o’ Torwatletie”. Other contributors to what was then called the adjunct to the festival were the Edinburgh district community drama association, which staged “The Anatomist” by James Bridie at the Pleasance, and the Edinburgh People’s Theatre, which put on “Thunder Rock” also at the Pleasance.

So it was a people’s festival right from the beginning. The term “fringe” appeared the following year, in 1948. It was first used by Robert Kemp, a journalist and playwright who was the father of the late Arnold Kemp, who went on to edit the Glasgow Herald. The tensions between the fringe and the official festival are far less apparent these days, now that we have the very successful umbrella organisation Festivals Edinburgh.

However, it is fair to say that there was a long-running debate over many decades about accessibility versus excellence and indigenous work versus international work. There was an energy around the debate that benefited both sides, and the success of the expo programme, which the cabinet secretary mentioned, is a good example of how such creative tension can give birth to something really good that is welcomed by all.

Dr Angela Bartie, of the University of Edinburgh, explores that dynamic in her 2013 book, “The Edinburgh Festivals: Culture and Society in Post-War Britain”. She notes that the numerous cultural wars around Edinburgh’s festivals, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, reflected key debates about the place of arts in society during that period, including debates about censorship, the role of culture as a means of enlightenment, its use for political purposes and the conflicts between small-c conservative and liberal values, elitism and diversity and the traditional and the avant-garde—all of which clashed in Edinburgh every August. That meant that Scotland was at the cutting edge of the big, global, intellectual arguments of the age.

Today, as we celebrate the 70th birthday of Edinburgh’s festivals, it is as well to note that they are still at the centre of international debate on the key challenges that face us. One of the most thought-provoking submissions to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee’s inquiry on Brexit came from Festivals Edinburgh. As well as pointing out the obvious financial implications, not least for programmes such as creative Europe, the organisation commented on the message that Brexit is sending out and said:

“It is vital that the countries of the EU and beyond continue to see Scotland as an open and outward looking nation.”

In that context, I was particularly pleased to see that this year’s 70th anniversary programme includes spirit of ’47, a co-curated programme that marks the founding partnership, which features artists from Scotland, England, the United States, Ukraine, Lebanon, Cuba and other countries from all over the world. It is a timely celebration of the depth and quality of international cultural collaboration. That was the spirit of 1947 that Rudolph Bing sought to nurture. It should also be the spirit of 2017 and beyond.


It is a great pleasure to take part in the debate not only as a member of the Scottish Parliament for the Lothian region but as someone—probably the first member to speak in the debate—who grew up in Edinburgh and went to the fringe and the festival as a child. With your forbearance, Presiding Officer, I will go down memory lane and share a few highlights.

I was brought up in a family who did not find culture very accessible, and my father used to close his office for two weeks in August so that he could get away from all the people in Edinburgh. However, we managed to move beyond that slightly.

One of the great strengths of the festivals in Edinburgh in August is their diversity. My colleague Gordon Lindhurst mentioned the tattoo. I remember going to the tattoo as a young boy—just a few years ago—and the excitement of seeing the different people who were taking part. Perhaps the greatest excitement came right at the start of the tattoo, when the person who was introducing it would say where people were from and we would go round the world hearing about countries not just in the Commonwealth but in North America, Asia, Europe and the rest of the globe. That was always remarkable.

One of the strengths of the international festival is that it brings together people from different cultures and backgrounds, and together we celebrate what is going on in the city. If we ever lose that international feel, the festival will be the lesser for it.

We can go from the grand tattoo, with bands and shows from around the world, to performances in church halls and small community centres. My researcher informed me that, last year, she spent two hours at a show that she described as “brilliant” and “life affirming”. It was medieval Latin chanting. The diversity is immense—the audience can go from medieval chants to Gilbert and Sullivan in one day.

Something that we have slightly lost sight of and might need to look at again is how we take all that out to communities across Edinburgh and the Lothians. When Councillor Eric Milligan was the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, he deliberately took some of the best-known acts into some of the most deprived areas of the Lothians.

The member might be interested to know that I wrote to thank Eric Milligan for his role with the festivals. He has just stood down from the board of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, for which he was a great advocate.

On the issue of taking the festivals out into the community, is the member familiar with the work that the Edinburgh International Festival is doing, particularly with Castlebrae community high school? That is not just a one-off; it is a sustained relationship. The festivals also engage with all 32 local authorities throughout the year, but perhaps not everybody knows about that outreach work.

I was going to talk about that, which is the one example that we have. Such work needs to be done a bit more. Schools in Edinburgh are often back by the final two weeks of the festival, which means that there would be opportunities, and it would be good for primary and secondary schools to deliberately make time for children to see events. We need to look at how we can do that.

One of the great developments of the past few years has been the book festival in Charlotte Square. It is an opportunity to bring together people from different political, historical and cultural backgrounds to meet and talk. As someone who grew up in the city, I got inspiration from being able to hear people from different backgrounds talk about what they had done in their lives and how they had impacted their societies.

We must look towards what will happen in the next few years. I was elected a councillor in Edinburgh just when the report “Thundering Hooves: Maintaining the Global Competitive Edge of Edinburgh’s Festivals” was published and sent to City of Edinburgh Council and other bodies. We have something unique here, but people in other parts of the United Kingdom, Europe and the rest of the world want to steal it. We cannot be complacent and think that, because it has been here for all these years, it will continue. I hope that national Government, the city council and others will continue to fund what is going on. Lewis Macdonald was absolutely right to say that others play their part and that people pay to come and spend their money here, but we need to make sure that the festivals have the appropriate support.

We, in Edinburgh and the nation, can be proud of what happens here in August. Nevertheless, I confess that I still look forward to the first week in September and a bit of peace and quiet on the Royal Mile.


As the cabinet secretary said, the Edinburgh festivals are the economic powerhouse of the tourism industry in Scotland. They start with the Edinburgh international science festival in March and go on through to Edinburgh’s hogmanay, and their economic impact is measured at £280 million in Edinburgh and £313 million across Scotland. The “Edinburgh Festivals 2015 Impact Study” also found that 5,500 jobs in Edinburgh and 6,000 jobs across Scotland are supported by the 12 festivals that take place each year in the city. However, it is not just that those jobs bring economic benefit to the city. Locals who took part in the survey agreed that the various festivals bring the community together and increase people’s pride in the city.

My constituency of Edinburgh Pentlands is closely associated with the military, as three army barracks are located in the area, so I will focus on the contribution of the Edinburgh military tattoo to the economy of the city. The first tattoo took place in 1950, and the first overseas regimental band to participate was the band of the Royal Netherlands Grenadiers in 1952. They were joined by performers from Canada and France. Since then, 48 countries from across six continents have performed at the Edinburgh military tattoo.

More than 14 million people have attended the tattoo since it started, and the audience figure currently stands at around 220,000 people every August. The event is so popular that it has sold out for the past 18 consecutive years. Many people get their first taste of the tattoo while watching television, which has resulted in a worldwide audience of 100 million people every year.

My constituency has another direct connection with the tattoo in that the rehearsals for the event are held every year on the parade ground of Redford barracks, where close to 1,200 performers and 250 pipers along with the military bands come together for the first time to practise and showcase their talents. The cavalry barracks also act as home to a large proportion of the military personnel who take part in the tattoo for the duration of its August run.

An assessment of the economic impact of the tattoo alone put its value to the Scottish economy at £77 million, and, because it was set up and is run for charitable purposes, it gifts about £8 million to service and civilian organisations.

However, an issue that could impact on future tattoos in Edinburgh is the Ministry of Defence’s proposal to sell off the Redford infantry and cavalry barracks by 2022. If the proposal goes ahead, where will performers be accommodated? Where is there a large enough secure area for them to carry out rehearsals? With five other military sites also due to close, including Craigiehall and Glencorse, which will make a number of army units homeless, finding a base for the tattoo could prove difficult.

The 12 festivals that take place in the city each year are well established, but it is as a whole that they are viewed when people refer to Edinburgh as the world’s leading festival city. By undermining the tattoo, the MOD could have an impact on the city’s hard-won reputation and on the 4.5 million visitors who attend each year, especially as many visitors state that the festivals are their sole or most important reason for visiting Scotland.

The “Edinburgh Festivals 2015 Impact Study” found that 94 per cent of respondents were of the view that it is the festivals that make the city special, so we need to protect what makes Edinburgh a leading international destination. The MOD should think again about the future of Redford barracks.


I am grateful for the chance to speak in this important debate, which recognises the remarkable value and worldwide significance of Edinburgh’s international festivals. I am incredibly proud to have grown up in Edinburgh and to live in this city now—like others—and to represent the vibrant and brilliant constituency of Edinburgh Northern and Leith in the Scottish Parliament.

Edinburgh is a truly outstanding city all year round. In a recent Deutsche Bank survey, it came out as the second-best city in the world for quality of life. However, during August—when the Edinburgh art festival, the royal military tattoo, the Edinburgh international festival, the Edinburgh festival fringe, the Edinburgh international book festival and so much more are alive—this place is particularly incredible. The population of the city almost doubles in size, the streets are filled with talent from around the globe, and fun, curiosity, generosity of spirit and internationalism are all around.

Last year, people could not have been in this great city without seeing the Edinburgh international festival’s inspiring “Welcome world” campaign. Signs that proclaimed the two words “Welcome world” in large, bold, purposeful letters were attached to buildings, lamp posts and bus shelters; those words were on programmes, leaflets and T-shirts. That campaign was in place before the result of the European Union referendum was known, but it felt particularly poignant and on the mark in Scotland’s capital city last year. It made a powerful statement that could not be ignored.

Running throughout August last year, the international festival alone welcomed 2,442 artists from 36 nations to Scotland’s capital city. Despite the good feeling, there were worrying conversations in venues, bars, restaurants and business meetings between artists from Scotland, the wider UK and beyond about how to keep the strength and diversity of the festival alive in the face of the Brexit challenge and its implications. Influential voices have raised concerns about possible barriers for audiences and performers who come to Edinburgh for our festivals, and it remains unclear what travel arrangements the UK Government will pursue post-Brexit. The UK Government can allay those fears, and I genuinely hope in good faith that it will do so sooner rather than later, because we are now one year on from the EU referendum.

As I said, the international festival’s Scotland welcomes the world campaign last year was created not as a result of the EU referendum but to bring the festival’s founding principles to the forefront and to emphasise and celebrate the spirit of the festivals. In 1947, the founders believed that the festival could reinvigorate and enrich the cultural life of Europe and Scotland and

“provide a platform for a flowering of the human spirit”

by bringing together people and artists from around the world. The vision was that it would generate significant cultural, social and economic benefits for Edinburgh and for the whole of Scotland. How visionary that ambition was, and how much Edinburgh, the whole of Scotland and beyond have been enriched as a result.

As other members have said, in addition to the cultural benefits of participating in and attending events in fields such as the arts, comedy, literature, film, music and science, there are immense economic benefits. From filling beds in our hotel rooms to boosting our bars and restaurants and providing a vital source of income for wonderful venues across Edinburgh, the benefit that we gain from our festivals is huge. In 2015, the economic impact for Edinburgh was estimated at £280 million, and £313 million was generated for Scotland as a whole. That boosted support for jobs and businesses across a variety of sectors in our economy, from tourism to hospitality and more. We must all seek to protect and grow our festivals.

We must not forget that it is people who make the festivals possible—not just the artists on stage, the curators and executives who work hard to produce their work, the fantastic venues, the shows that we all see and the interesting talks that we enjoy, but those on the ground who support the day-to-day running of the festivals: the bartenders, cleaners, taxi drivers, hotel staff, police officers and others. We must also remember that a great number of the individuals who are showcasing their work are, more often than not, Scotland’s emerging artists, performers, producers, directors and playwrights. Our festivals can be their gateway to the world and the launch pad for their talents and careers.

I thank and congratulate everyone, from the artists to the hospitality staff, who has been involved in Edinburgh’s festivals over the past 70 years. Over those years, the festivals have done what they were intended to do and more. They have brought together an incredibly diverse range of people and cultures and enriched Scotland in many ways. They have indeed brought about a

“flowering of the human spirit”.

Let us work together to make sure that we enjoy another 70 years of festivals in this great city and that we do not take them for granted. Let us expand the reach of the festivals—for example, further into Leith. I hope that one day Leith theatre will again host events for the festivals, as it recently hosted the hidden door festival so brilliantly. Let us also expand the economic benefits by, for example, working together to share more of the wealth and the cultural enrichment throughout our city. Let us do that with openness and internationalism. Let us keep our international festivals international in the face of all the challenges ahead, and let us continue to welcome the world to this great city.


I am delighted to speak in the debate. Before entering this place, I spent many years supporting, performing in and co-ordinating theatrical, musical, dance and operatic events, so I know only too well about the time, talent and commitment that are required to stage an event or festival, and I pay tribute to anyone who has embarked on that endeavour. The opportunity to perform, inspire an audience and unlock the potential of an artist is remarkable and encouraging to see.

Every August in Edinburgh, the international festival possesses the capacity to transform one of the world’s most beautiful cities into a combined stage and platform for some of the best emerging and established acts from around the globe. It is an opportunity to showcase their talent in the exquisite, unique and historic surroundings of the capital of Scotland; we are the envy of the world for our location.

The international festival’s success is built on an uncompromising commitment to originality. The festival invites creators and performers to showcase their talent in music, theatre, film, dance and opera, which offers a unique experience for audiences to feel enthusiastic about when watching the performers and participating in many of the events that take place. This year is special, as 2017 marks the international festival’s 70th anniversary, which we should celebrate and shout about from the rafters.

What we have all come to expect and recognise as the Edinburgh festival encompasses a host of festivals, such as the international fringe and the film festival. The international festival was founded in 1947 by Rudolf Bing and, as we have heard, the opportunity to bring together different festivals has developed over the years, including the royal Edinburgh military tattoo, the jazz and blues festival, the international book festival and the international science festival.

This year, we celebrate all those fantastic events, as the Edinburgh festivals will be the largest cultural opportunity that we have had and will host more than 25,000 performers. That will contribute hundreds of millions of pounds and thousands of jobs to our economy, which we all welcome. The economic impact has been measured at £280 million in Edinburgh and £313 million across Scotland. The festivals provide a fantastic opportunity to develop; individuals come here to express themselves and everybody gains understanding and gets something from that.

The Scottish Conservatives have recognised that festivals are important; our manifesto even said that we support the Edinburgh festival in its 70th anniversary year and that we want to develop the new Edinburgh concert hall,

“reaffirming Edinburgh as the UK’s leading festival city and a cultural beacon around the globe.”

There have been many studies and reports on the festival; 92 per cent of respondents to one study said that the festival had given them the chance to see something that they would not otherwise have had the opportunity to support and that they thought that the festival was a must-see event, because it brings together in collaboration individuals and organisations that want to inform and get their message over in many ways. It is a fantastic opportunity to see collaboration of young and old and all the different elements.

In 2016, 3,269 shows took place in 294 venues across Edinburgh. That is an immense organisational structure to put together.

The fringe model has been emulated in places from Australia to France, Canada to Prague, South Africa to Brighton, China to Brazil and everywhere in-between. The fringe movement has grown from strength to strength, which has enabled people all over the world to make cultural connections and to transcend national boundaries.

It is only right and proper that a global celebration of the festival fringe is to be staged for 24 hours on 11 July to bring together the opportunities of a worldwide euphoria like that which is generated by such events as St Patrick’s day and Burns night. We want to ensure that those people—and we—have the opportunity to be on that stage, with more than 200 open-access events in places as far afield as Canada, South Africa and Australia expected to unite to mark and make much of their Scottish roots. If that celebration is successful, it could realistically become an annual event, which would rightly cement Edinburgh as the birthplace of the festival fringe.

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to participate in the debate. I will not sing or perform to members on this occasion, but we might get time for that in the future.

If your colleagues had not used up the extra time, I might have been asking you to do that, Mr Stewart.


As an Edinburgh MSP, I am very happy to be taking part in this debate.

Seven decades ago, Europe was reeling. Lives were lost, cities were destroyed and the very meaning of humanity was almost forgotten. In the process, the art and culture that many European nations had pioneered and were known for around the world were put on hold. Melodies were silenced as concert and opera halls were bombed; prose was usurped by propaganda; and theatres went dark for years—that is, until war receded, and in its aftermath Europe looked to Edinburgh.

In selecting a city for the international festival, one of the founders, Henry Harvey Wood, said:

“Above all it should be a city likely to embrace the opportunity and willing to make the festival a major preoccupation, not only in the City Chambers, but in the heart and home of every citizen, however modest.”

Seventy years on, and with the festival including more than 2,000 artists from 40 nations, I think that Edinburgh has fulfilled Henry Harvey Wood’s ambition and vision. Each year in August, Scotland’s capital city is filled with opera, music, theatre, dance and literature, and while the hundreds of thousands who flock here get to experience Scotland in the process, so too does Scotland get to experience the world.

Edinburgh’s rich culture was a draw for the festival’s founders, but I would like to think that they also appreciated the friendly and welcoming nature of Scots in general. That, I believe, is what is so beneficial about the international festival and its mission of the

“flowering of the human spirit”.

People from all over come together in Edinburgh and are united through art and culture.

In its 70 years, the international festival has brought people together not only through the main events in August but by inspiring even more festivals. With the fringe, the international film festival, the science festival and Edinburgh’s hogmanay, to name just a few, Edinburgh is now host to 12 major annual festivals throughout the year, which are experienced by more than 4.5 million people a year, earning Edinburgh the title of the world’s festival city. We celebrate them all in the motion for this debate, and I welcome the fact that the Government has provided £19 million in funding to the festivals since 2008, with an extra £300,000 having been pledged for the 70th anniversary year.

Such achievement in the provision of world-class events would never have been possible without the leading work of the international festival, and we owe it, its founders, its current and previous staff and volunteers, its funders and its audiences a debt of gratitude. After all, the events contribute in so many ways to Edinburgh and to Scotland, including economically, with £280 million in economic activity for Edinburgh alone.

As we have heard, the festivals bring many visitors to Scotland. According to the 2015 festival impact study, 71 per cent of visitors said that the festivals were their sole or most important reason for visiting Scotland.

I have been attending festival events since I was a child. The first one that I can remember was when my parents took me to watch the fireworks that mark the end of the festival. I have to confess that I still love watching the fireworks, and I went along last year. I have also had the opportunity to start taking my children to events at the festival. I or we have attended a range of things from opera and concerts to experimental comedy and even just the inventive street shows. My friends from down south love to come up in August so that they can combine visiting me with attending some of the festival. I recommend the festivals very highly. There is something for everyone and anyone who has not been along to the festival should consider attending something.

In the aftermath of war, organisations such as the Edinburgh International Festival were born, in part for the world to heal, but more significantly, they were born and still exist today so that, even in the most challenging of circumstances, we—humanity—will never turn our backs on one another.

Festival director Fergus Linehan probably said it best when reflecting on the festival’s 70th anniversary:

“It feels more important than ever, perhaps, that we celebrate the founding values of the International Festival”


“continue to welcome the world to our city.”

I hope that we will all continue to be inspired by the festival’s creativity, both in its philosophy and in its art. In 70 years it has done so much for Edinburgh, Scotland and the world. I am confident that the best is still yet to come.


I am pleased to contribute to today’s debate on Edinburgh’s international festivals. Of course, for an almost-Weegie from the west of Scotland, it can sometimes be challenging to talk about a successful Edinburgh.

On a serious note, it is absolutely right that we have this debate to celebrate the impact that Edinburgh’s international festivals have on our communities by delivering a thriving economy and vibrant cultural scene. My remarks will begin with culture, as there can be no underestimating the fact that Edinburgh’s festivals are world leading and a cornerstone of Scottish culture and tourism. They have been defining and promoting Scotland’s identity as a confident, creative, welcoming nation for the past 70 years.

Just last week in Parliament, I asked the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs what the Scottish and UK Governments were doing to attract major events to Scotland. I asked that question because Scotland is a melting pot of culture and a real draw for international visitors, with so much to showcase and so much to share.

The numbers that are associated with the Edinburgh festivals are staggering. In terms of the talent that the festivals attract, in 2016 there were more than 2,500 artists from all over the world. From comedy to acting, art and music, a plethora of talent is on display. In 2015, there was a combined audience of more than 4.5 million, which puts the festivals on a par with the FIFA world cup and second only to the Olympic games for attendances. We should be proud that our capital city continues not only to deliver an amazing event but to deliver for Scotland.

Moving on from culture, I would like to highlight an important factor in the festival and the other contribution that it makes to Scotland, which is its contribution to the economy. The facts speak for themselves: Edinburgh’s festivals generate a total economic impact of £280 million in Edinburgh and £313 million in Scotland.

The good news for all of us is that the money that is generated from the festivals has continued to grow. According to the “Edinburgh Festivals 2015 Impact Study”, the suite of festivals that are held in the capital generated £280 million for Edinburgh and £313 million for Scotland, which represents an increase of 19 per cent and 24 per cent respectively since 2010.

For comparison’s sake, we should look at golfing tourism, which the most recent independent economic impact assessment estimates to be worth £220 million annually. That is a significant economic benefit to Scotland.

Beyond finance however, the festivals also deliver opportunities, including opportunities for employment. As we saw in 2015, a total of 5,560 full-time equivalent jobs were created in Edinburgh and 6,021 jobs in Scotland, compared with 5,047 and 4,757 respectively in 2010.

It is clear that the Edinburgh festivals contribute not only to Scotland’s incredible cultural scene but to our economic growth as a nation. I am proud that, in 2017-18, the Scottish Government has allocated £2.3 million through the Edinburgh festivals expo fund, which will take the amount awarded since 2008 to more than £19 million. That shows the commitment of this Scottish National Party Scottish Government and the cabinet secretary to delivering large-scale events that attract international visitors and domestic visitors alike and say loudly and clearly our message: Scotland is open, Scotland is welcoming and Scotland is a nation with so much to offer. In two words, we could simply say: visit Scotland.

Before we move to closing speeches, I put it on the record that Ash Denham has apologised for not informing the chamber that she is the cabinet secretary’s parliamentary liaison officer. Thank you, Ms Denham.


This has been a fantastic debate, and there has been a lot about which we can all agree. I offer great thanks for, among other highlights, the mental image of Gordon Lindhurst being chased down the Royal Mile by someone brandishing a pair of underpants. We can all recognise that there was a remarkable degree of consensus in the chamber: practically every speaker used the line about the world cup. That consensus cannot be construed as an own goal at all. My only disappointment is that Alexander Stewart did not take up the suggestion of entering into a song-and-dance routine. I have always thought that the space in front of you would be perfect for such a show, Presiding Officer.

As a member of the Scottish Parliament who represents an Edinburgh constituency—indeed, as someone who grew up in the city—it is with a huge sense of pride that I speak in the debate. As every member has mentioned, the Edinburgh festivals truly are special. For the month of August—

Will the member take an intervention?

I am sorry. I was getting carried away. I would be delighted to do so.

Does Daniel Johnson share my disappointment that six MSPs who represent Edinburgh did not take part in the debate?

I diplomatically suggest that those members have missed out on a fantastic opportunity to talk about great things in our great city. I agree with Ben Macpherson, to that extent.

For the month of August, this city of a mere half a million people truly welcomes the world. It becomes a much bigger city: one that is full of different ideas and activities. That is something truly special and something that I became very aware of as I was growing up in Edinburgh. At the age of eight, I decided that I would make my own contribution to the Edinburgh festivals by putting on an exhibition of completed jigsaws and interesting rocks from my garden, which I advertised through chalk drawings on neighbouring streets’ pavements. Like many shows in the Edinburgh festivals, it was not necessarily a commercial or an artistic success, but I believe that it was a small contribution.

The contributions that the Edinburgh festivals make are not merely commercial. They are much bigger than that: they are cultural and artistic. That is demonstrated by the degree to which the festival means so many different things to different people: it is comedy, music, art and literature. Well and truly, in the Edinburgh festivals the worlds of the arts come together in one place.

As many members have said, imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. The fact that so many festivals all around the world seek to capture and copy some of the sense of the Edinburgh festivals truly is a credit to what we have created here.

We should thank Fiona Hyslop and my colleague Lewis Macdonald for setting out very well the history of the Edinburgh festivals. In 1947, when the international festival was created, the world was a shattered place. It is a true tribute to Rudolf Bing and his colleagues that they brought everything together—especially Rudolf Bing, who had fled the chaos and unimaginable horror of the second world war. For him to have come here and do such a big thing as creating the international festival is truly amazing.

What we have is an amazing and eclectic combination of wonderful art forms coming together. The combination of the different festivals is also important. Alongside the international festival we have the Edinburgh festival fringe, which is truly open and welcome to all who want to come, create and contribute. It is that combination of curation of the very best that the world has to offer, along with that openness and creativity, that is important.

I would also like to welcome Ben Macpherson’s speech. His point is very important—the lessons are true and important today. We are living in a time when the world seems to be on the brink of drawing in on itself. The spirit that the festival sought to bring to the world is one that we need to consider and look to. The Edinburgh festivals can continue to make that kind of contribution as we go forward, because what we have here is of global significance. People around the world know Edinburgh because of how important the Edinburgh festivals are and the cultural contribution that they make.

That contribution is also very important to Scotland. A good number of members talked about the economic contribution of about £300 million, and that is important, but the festivals are also important because they give us, in Edinburgh and Scotland, the opportunity to give something back to the world. That is always very apparent when you talk to people from other countries who know about Edinburgh and about the specialness of what happens here during the international festivals. It is fantastic that we are able to make that contribution to the world through the Edinburgh international festivals.

I would also like to comment on the points that were made by Jeremy Balfour and Joan McAlpine about the importance of maintaining that openness, and especially openness to communities here in Edinburgh. At times the arts can be precious and closed off. One of the important things about the Edinburgh festival fringe in particular is that it was meant to be about openness. We must make sure that we continue to preserve that openness, both to people who want to contribute to art and performance and to those who want to attend. We must make sure that the Edinburgh festivals are open to all—artists and people who want to be in audiences.

Although this is a debate in which we can agree on a great deal, I need gently to bring up the fact that the arts need support. Although I very much welcome the restoration of the expo fund, we must note that the City of Edinburgh Council contributes £9 million to the Edinburgh festivals. Given government pressures, we need to be concerned about that. I urge the Government to make sure that it continues to support the arts, because they need that support.

In conclusion, I think that the Edinburgh festivals contribute a great deal to Scotland and the world. They give us a great deal to be proud of, and we should all continue to support them and the great work that they do.


It is a great pleasure to contribute to this debate. I am, with Patrick Harvie, a best-selling box-office success from a previous Edinburgh fringe festival, with a sell-out audience of 600 people. I think that members will agree that we were the Pete Cook and Dudley Moore of the event, although I should say that it was probably more owing to the success of comedian Mark Thomas, who was holding one of his “People’s Manifesto” events. Nonetheless, we expected a television series to follow but were sadly to be disappointed in that. I also point to the hugely competitive nature of the bidding for venues at the festival.

I want to pay tribute to Rudolf Bing. He is a hero of the Jewish community, of which the greatest number of members in Scotland live in my constituency of Eastwood. He was born in Vienna in 1902. He lived to the grand old age of 95, died in New York 20 years ago and was knighted in 1971. He was born and brought up in Vienna and moved to Berlin in 1927. He was not actually a refugee, as Joan McAlpine suggested, but consciously chose to move here. He certainly became very aware of the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany, but he left at the start of all that to work at the Glyndebourne opera house from the summer of 1934. He was in fact the manager of Glyndebourne from 1936 through to 1939, when it closed during the hostilities. He was there to reopen Glyndebourne in the period immediately after the war.

It was Rudolf Bing who, with others, had the vision of the festival. I have to say that Edinburgh was not the first choice—he wanted to establish a festival in Oxford, but when they were not able to make progress in Oxford, he had to scout around for another venue and, for the most parochial of reasons, he settled on Edinburgh. Why? It was because he liked the castle, which reminded him of Salzburg castle, in his native Austria. Of course, Salzburg had its own music festival; it is most familiar to most of us, I would think, from the von Trapp family singers and the classic conclusion to “The Sound of Music”.

Crucially, there was also the practical contribution that Edinburgh could make. It had not received the carpet bombing that many other cities had during the war, and there was the potential and ready availability of 100,000 beds for tourists and artists who might want to visit.

For those reasons, Rudolf Bing settled on Edinburgh, but it was a difficult sell. In the first year, he managed to attract the Vienna philharmonic orchestra conducted by Bruno Walter, which had a huge impact in giving credibility, but Bing himself said that many people across Europe were sceptical about bringing their talent to Edinburgh; indeed, some did not even know what it was. That was a much more parochial era. As Bing pointed out, the structure of the arts in this country at that time could be encapsulated in the comparison between the number of opera houses on the continent and the number in the United Kingdom and the message that it sent to artists that they really should not go to Britain to advance their careers. There were 80 opera houses on the European continent and only two in the whole of the United Kingdom, one of which was not terribly celebrated and was regarded at that stage as being somewhat parochial and not having standards that really rose to the occasion.

Bringing all those arts companies to Edinburgh was therefore a major achievement, and Edinburgh itself became an inspiration for development of the arts across the whole United Kingdom. For all our talk of the remarkable contribution that it has made to Scotland’s cultural life, we should remember the Edinburgh festival’s enormous contribution to the arts across the UK in the post-war years.

We have heard some excellent speeches this afternoon. Joan McAlpine might be concerned to learn that I actually agree that Brexit presents challenges. I hope that the challenges will prove to be at the margins, but given that funding support comes from Europe, there will be funding challenges to deal with.

Jeremy Balfour gave us some childhood nostalgia. In the great tradition of Norman Wisdom and Eric Sykes, Gordon MacDonald used a prop to entertain us throughout this speech. We heard from Ben Macpherson, and Alexander Stewart told us of his previous career in musical theatre. Who knew? Who suspected? All I can say is that he will be compulsorily auditioned and if I think that there is any mileage in it, I will cut short a future speech to give him a final opportunity.

We heard from the convener of the Showmen’s Guild—I think that that was the cultural aspect that Richard Lyle brought to the debate. Daniel Johnson talked about his own showmanship. Indeed, I have often paid tribute to that—I have always thought that he, Mr Cole-Hamilton and Jamie Greene are the great new theatrical performers in the chamber—and it all began with his seeking to embark on a thespian career with completed jigsaws.

Like many people, I have been coming to the festival for years—and I hope that Ben Macpherson does not mind my saying that, as someone who comes from the west coast. Indeed, I hope that that does not preclude me from participating. Last year, one of the concerts that I attended was about the lost music from the Weimar Republic. It was hosted by the comedian Barry Humphries, and I found it incredibly profound. He had discovered the compositions in a battered briefcase in a second-hand bookshop; many of the artists had not escaped from and had died in Nazi Germany, and their music had not been performed since Weimar’s cabaret years and its banning by Hitler. Mr Humphries had brought the music back to life by reorchestrating and performing it, and when I thought about Rudolf Bing and his Jewish cultural heritage, I felt that the concert last year had a nice circularity in what it was celebrating.

Having tried to be upbeat, I want to conclude with a cautionary note, and I am interested in hearing what the cabinet secretary has to say about this. This has been a troubled year, and we have seen some pretty shocking events in the rest of the United Kingdom. People will want to know that they are safe when they come to this year’s festival. By its very nature, it draws a huge international community to the city; however, it is incredibly open and the venues in which it takes place are extraordinarily diverse. I do not think that any of us can be anything other than alert to people’s concerns, so it is important that we send a message from Edinburgh that we will do everything that we can to ensure that the festival is every bit as successful, every bit as safe, every bit as enjoyable and every bit as participative as any that have gone before it.

We want the 70th Edinburgh festival and all the other festivals, including our own festival of politics—which I know comes later in the year but, as a member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and having seen this year’s programme, I can tell the chamber that it is stuffed full of some very big acts—to bring people to Edinburgh and to be a huge and continuing success.


We heard from Gordon Lindhurst about the melee of the advocates and the artists at the top of the Royal Mile. My confession is that, when I came to the festival as a 14-year-old, my friend and I ended up in a Scientologist recruitment session thinking that we were at a fringe show. Another of my earliest memories was getting on a bus in Ayrshire to come to the military tattoo, an experience that has stayed with me.

There is passion for the Edinburgh festivals, not just because they happen in Edinburgh, although Ash Denham, as an Edinburgh MSP, set out why this city is so well disposed to the festival and how it has developed over the years to embrace it. I impress on members, however, that the international reputation of the Edinburgh festivals as a calling card for this country is something that other countries are hugely envious of. The festivals tell the world something about our country, our creativity, our innovation and our enlightenment.

Joan McAlpine talked about the intellectual challenges to the festivals that have existed across the years. That is incredibly important. The festivals have taken shape in different times. Some times have been conservative; at other times, different ideas have come to the fore. With the Edinburgh book festival, we see a cafe culture where the moments and the issues of the day are debated. Perhaps that is where, today, we find the intellectual powerhouse that has been the tradition throughout the years.

Lewis Macdonald talked about the importance of internationalism. He said that the best answer to barbarism was to celebrate civilisation. We absolutely will.

To reflect on the latter points, particularly from Jackson Carlaw, we want to make sure that people are safe, that we are open for business and that that reassurance is extended. Indeed, Michael Matheson, the justice secretary, discussed the issue last year because, obviously, the threats are not just recent, and we have been conscious over a number of years of how, either within venues or through other means, we ensure that security is in place.

On the commitment that we have, there is consensus across the chamber on the value of the Edinburgh international festivals, their importance, the joy that they bring and the impacts in the economic sphere, too.

I commend all those who work tirelessly across the festivals. This year, the First Minister will host a reception to recognise and personally thank those who work tirelessly behind the scenes and who are instrumental to the festivals’ success. That includes the volunteers, the box office staff, technicians, joiners and so many more that go unseen.

There will be celebrations this year for the momentous 70th anniversary year. The festivals need to push boundaries in so many different ways, and we have seen them reinvent themselves either by where they take place or by their content. Again, I congratulate the Scottish Parliament in getting in on the act with the festival of politics.

Ben Macpherson talked about the importance of the generosity of spirit. I was a bit worried about Richard Lyle’s Weegie confession and whether he would talk about an Edinburgh success, but he was able to talk about how important the events are.

Ben Macpherson talked about the Leith theatre. We also need to recognise that Summerhall has become a new venue. Indeed, we should recognise that the places where the festivals take place are important.

Gordon MacDonald brought an important constituency issue to the debate when he spoke about the future of the barracks and the implications for the tattoo.

I let all those who have contributed to the debate—the Stewarts, the Macphersons, the MacDonalds and perhaps the McAlpines—know that, in this year of history, heritage and archaeology, there will be a splash of tartan at the royal military tattoo, where two different clans will parade each night. I am not sure whether they have been recruited, but perhaps there might be an opportunity to get involved.

We have talked about the founding festivals from which other significant festivals grew. In the 1950s, we had the first military tattoo on the Edinburgh castle esplanade. The jazz community led the way and developed the first jazz festival in 1978, in the Adelphi ballroom in Abbeyhill. That music festival now encompasses blues and jazz.

The book festival emerged in 1983. It remains in its original spot in Charlotte Square and continues to welcome writers from around the world to share ideas and to debate the power of the written word. I understand that it has disturbed the First Minister in Bute house from time to time.

The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, arrived in Edinburgh in 1989 to inaugurate the world’s first science festival. This year, 146,000 attendees were attracted, with a wider reach of 350,000.

In the same year, communities were instrumental in setting up the international storytelling festival. Originally welcoming 700 attendees, it has now grown to 23,000.

The Edinburgh international children’s festival started in 1990. This year, it had 10,000 delegates, including schools, and there were 300 international delegates from 23 countries. I learned during my visit to Japan that there is a real recognition there of the value and status of our children’s festival.

The world-famous hogmanay emerged next, in 1994. Those of us who lived in Edinburgh before then might perhaps remember how easy it was to get to the Tron before the 1994 hogmanay explosion. Now, of course, we get 75,000 people into the city.

Ten years on, the Edinburgh art festival was founded in 2004. It now has an estimated 172,000 visitors. Importantly, it is helping people to explain the city to themselves, exploring lanes and buildings and being wowed by high-quality visual art.

Perhaps Daniel Johnson might wish to dust off his early work and see whether he can get in on the act and demonstrate the creativity that is also renowned in the Parliament.

The list of festival alumni—the artists themselves—is extensive and illustrious. Early audiences were treated to the works of pioneering animator Norman McLaren at the film festival, which also established the profile and reputation of Ingmar Bergman in the late 1950s. Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook created comic mayhem in the 1960s. That was the decade when the Traverse theatre was established by John Calder, Jim Haynes and Ricky Demarco. Indeed, Ricky Demarco brought “Macbeth” to Inchcolm island. Importantly, artists were brought from behind the iron curtain to exhibit their art. To extend the point made by Lewis Macdonald, arts and culture can extend beyond boundaries in a way that other things cannot.

I ask for a bit of quiet around the chamber, please. There should be no private conversations.

Ravi Shankar appeared in the 1970s and in 2011. A number of writers and performers who started on the fringe are now well known, with examples including Rowan Atkinson, Jo Brand and Ben Elton. More recently, we have had Juliette Binoche and our home-grown Nicola Benedetti and Alan Cumming.

That only scratches the surface of the quality and variety that the festivals bring. The festivals will continue to thrill and entertain us, making us feel outrage or empathy, perhaps bringing a tear to our eye. They educate and stimulate us, and they can perhaps be quite provocative. They are the lifeblood and part of the foundation of our culture and heritage.

The festivals are so important, and not just to our economy. At a time when the world is facing so many challenges, we should be very proud of the thoughts, ideas and expressions of our shared humanity that are celebrated in our Edinburgh international festivals.

I am delighted that we have had such consensus today. I recognise the genuine passion and commitment that people have to the importance of the Edinburgh festivals. I encourage all members: if you have not already booked your tickets, make sure to join us in the celebration that will take place right across the summer period. The Edinburgh film festival starts next week.

In this year, the 70th year, I hope that all of us will join together to pay tribute to those who had the vision at the start—Rudolf Bing and others—and to those who carry the torch of that humanity and expression that is the festivals as they celebrate their 70th year.