Organisers of Edinburgh’s famed New Year’s Eve street party have apologised after telling some residents they needed official permission to hold a celebration — or even to enter their own homes on the night.
The Hogmanay event attracts around 75,000 people from around the world but organiser Underbelly, a private company, said those living in the central area — and any guests — had to register for a wristband to get through a tight security cordon on the night.
Underbelly is anxious that nobody without a ticket enters the “arena”, which covers Rose Street, Princes Street and Mound Place among others, to watch musicians including Mark Ronson and Marc Almond.
But the blunt message to register — which at one stage said the fire brigade would check how many guests could safely enter a home — has ignited long-burning issues about the impact of tourism. A Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens, also run by Underbelly, did not have planning permission.
Mike Small, a writer who founded the Citizens community group, said Hogmanay was a “fiasco”. “Let’s reclaim our city from hidden networks and businesses carving up Edinburgh for profit.”
Edinburgh city council, which has a contract with Underbelly to organise the festival, criticised the company for its poor communication. The registration system has been in place for some years but the secure area this year expanded to new streets.
“Many problems which led to legitimate criticism were avoidable and in some instances simply down to poor communication,” council leader Adam McVey, of the Scottish National party, tweeted.
“I want to reassure residents that they will of course have full access to their homes during Hogmanay,” he added in a statement.
Underbelly said those without a wristband could still get to their homes provided they showed identity documents. “We are sorry if this has been misunderstood but we want to be very clear that our intention was never to prevent access.”
It also said guests of residents would be able to come in without wristbands but did not outline how security staff would know they were not simply trying to get into the arena for free. The restricted zone has 650 homes and businesses.
The event is worth £39m to Edinburgh on the most recent figures, Underbelly said, with 180,000 expected to attend over three days. Tickets on New Year’s Eve range from £31.50, for access to the street party, to £170 for VIP access to the concert.
Brian Smith, a local resident, has begun an online petition to call for Mr McVey’s resignation. “The over-exploitation, commercialisation of public spaces, and the turning of Edinburgh into a constant uncontrolled theme park lies fairly and squarely with Edinburgh City Council,” says the petition, which attracted more than 400 signatures on its first day.