Festival-goers will be shocked by capital

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THE FIRST week in August means only one thing to residents and frequent visitors to our nation’s capital. The Edinburgh festivals begin and the city centre grinds to a virtual standstill.

The world’s largest arts festival has a knack of attracting tourists eager to see what all the fuss is about. They can be spotted, map in one hand and suitcase in the other, on the corner of Waverley Bridge and Princes Street, looking confused.

I can’t help but feel sorry for them. They must take one look at the scene of urban devastation in front of them and be tempted to turn around and go home again. There has never been a worse time to visit Edinburgh. Not since Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Highland army occupied the city in 1745 has there been more reason to avoid it.

The tram works that have blighted Princes Street for years are well documented. Add to that the state of the sizable building directly opposite the Waverley Steps. It’s the very first thing most people leaving the station are confronted with, and it’s currently windowless, propped up by steel supports. Once upon a time, it was home to Waterstones. Now, you could say it’s had the book thrown at it.

Unless you’ve seen it for yourself, it’s difficult to imagine just how bad Princes Street looks at the moment. The owners of the Balmoral Hotel must be furious. It’s hard to justify those room prices when residents will have a view of a scene that could be straight out of any Vietnam War flick.

The appalling state of Edinburgh reflects badly on all Scots, as many innocent tourists will presume that we’ve all lost the plot, when the blame should be laid squarely in front of the city chambers.