curiosity about the ways of the world

Where exactly is the centre of Edinburgh?

Just wondering, in the event of revolution where would Edinburgh crowds gather, where is the city square, where the city’s heart? (Twitter Mon 21 Feb 17.50)

It was an impulsive question on Twitter.  I didn’t really expect a response.  During the Arab Spring it occurred to me that Edinburgh lacks a true centre. In the unlikely event of revolutionary fever spreading through the capital, where would crowds gather? Autumn has brought an answer of sorts.

I had asked a similar question (without the reference to revolution) when I first joined the board of the former Edinburgh City Centre Management Company.  Excited by new plans for improving public space, I suggested we might hold a competition to find out exactly where the centre is.

The idea never caught on. So I was astonished at the number and speed of responses on Twitter. I stopped counting when 14 people answered within minutes. Sadly I never got round to making a copy of them; in retrospect they gave a hint of political upheaval to come.

“We could storm the palace then occupy parliament,”

Members of the SNP mostly suggested that Edinburgh’s political epicentre should be outside the Scottish Parliament.  “We could storm the palace then occupy parliament,” I paraphrase but that was the gist back in February.   (You can tell SNP tweets, by the way, because they sport the party symbol – if anyone wonders why the nationalist party now occupies parliament, if not the palace, just take a look at the social media savvy of their young bloods.)

A few Labour followers opted for Parliament Square, outside City Chambers, or round the Tron. Others just despaired: “We don’t even have a Pearl Roundabout let alone a Tahrir Square”. As far as I remember no-one suggested St Andrew Square.  But now here are the non-party-political anti-capitalists politely setting up camp in the garden recently opened to the public.  The land, leased to the council and maintained by Essential Edinburgh (which emerged from ECCM), still belongs to property owners round the square, including the Royal Bank of Scotland

Which is why Occupy Edinburgh is there.

Apart from admirable coverage by STV Edinburgh, the media has largely ignored the camp (though Occupy Edinburgh has a good website and well supported Facebook page). Some would say that’s because the occupy movement is not newsworthy, or not in Edinburgh anyway. But I am impressed by their good-natured organisation and the general confidence that the movement will take shape and spread if they talk and listen to enough people.

Maybe, maybe. At any rate I’m delighted to see that ACTive Inquiry theatre company is taking their latest forum theatre play to St Andrew Square. On 19 November Not for Profit explores alternatives to spending cuts among anti-capitalist campaigners.

And at night (pedal-powered) lights shine on rebellious banners slung round the plinth of that disgraceful old rogue Henry Dundas.  Why does Edinburgh celebrate the last person in the UK to be impeached? And for misappropriation of public funds!   St Andrew Square has reason to become the revolutionary heart of the city.

PS: Not many people know this but St Andrew Square is also Edinburgh’s Poetry Garden.  The founder members nurture dreams of projecting poetry on to the plinth.  Thanks to Occupy Edinburgh we can see it would show up nicely after dark. And make good use of old Dundas.


  1. Administrator

    Thanks for your comment Tychy. The camp is definitely still in St Andrew Square and it’s interesting to see they have negotiated a new agreement with Essential Edinburgh to move to the edge of the garden making room for Christmas events in the square.

    It will also be interesting to see whether the City Council accept the Green motion supporting Occupy Edinburgh.

  2. Tychy

    Um, I think you’ll find that this camp is (or was?) in Andrew’s Square, because it’s next to the bus station where there are good public toilets..

    Maybe Henry Dundas will commit his final act of infamy by toppling from his pillar and destroying Edinburgh’s anti-capitalist movement in one fell swoop… Splat!

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