EAST PRINCES STREET GARDENS

Removal of 52 trees from East Princes Street Gardens has prompted outrage on social media. 

The ensuing argument centres around the National Galleries of Scotland, which received consent for the felling in June in order to improve disabled access to its forthcoming extension on the Mound (Ref. 17/05842/LBC).

The extent of NGS's prior consultation, the accuracy of the advice it received, and the clarity of its public relations afterwards have all been questioned since.

Simultaneously, criticism has been levelled at City of Edinburgh Council and organisers of the Christmas Market. It's alleged that explicit rules to protect the roots of the remaining trees have not been followed. There is a widespread suspicion (unfounded, we believe) that the trees have been cut to facilitate the stallholders.

There is related criticism that, if NGS are keen to enhance vistas to their building by reducing the tree canopy, they should also be vocal against the seasonal shanty clutter which obscures and distracts from such views.

The debate has occasionally travelled in unexpected directions, as when Edinburgh World Heritage briefly became embroiled in discussion about the health and sustainability of city-centre trees. That Twitter exchange – with @andyheald, 26.10.18 – is no longer intelligible due to the abrupt disappearance of Director Adam Wilkinson's personal Twitter account.

In many ways, this is a perfect Edinburgh storm. It involves the perceived lofty unaccountability of institutions, the ravaging of civic space, the apparent willingness of the Council to forsake its parks in favour of private enterprise, and the prioritisation of touristic entertainment over public amenity.

As is the way with these phenomena, the online discussion rapidly branched off in many directions all at once. What follows is an effort to pollard it sensitively into a representative and roughly chronological order. If we've missed anything important, kindly let us know.

Spurtle has invited the National Galleries of Scotland to add to its statement (below), and answer some of the questions it prompted, by posting an article on this website. We have yet to hear back from them. Our coverage here aims to be impartial, but, in the interests of transparency, we should make clear that Spurtle's Editor is a long-standing and active member of the Friends of the NGS.

[Image above courtesy of Simon Holledge @Holledge.]

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