“We must stop destroying this magnificent city. It’s all very well catering for visitors, but we need to ask: why do they come here in the first place? They come here to see one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

So, if we want to have visitors, let’s not wreck it. We have a responsibility to the world and at the moment we are showing ourselves unfit to discharge it. Shame on us. Shame.”

– Alexander McCall Smith

For a one page critique of the highly controversial proposed Virgin Hotel development which imperils the future of Edinburgh Central Library and the Old Town Community:


For a more detailed summary submitted by the Old Town Community Council:


If you haven’t yet signed the petition PLEASE DO and share with others:


Having handed out thousands of leaflets, written hundreds of letters, taken the case to the highest court in the land and even set up an occupy camp and climbed trees in pursuit of Justice, the entire process has revealed itself hardly fit for purpose. When the system is supposed to otherwise act in the public interest, we’re running out of options…

…time to try the emergency Section 65 strategy!




The controversy surrounding the proposed Virgin Hotel has been somewhat overlooked due to many other contentious ‘developments’ in Edinburgh, such as the former Royal High School, St James Centre, South St Andrew Square… with an inauspicious list that continues to grow… threatening to “kill the golden goose” in the name of endless economic growth… feeding the insatiable appetite of an unsustainable, discredited system… on a finite planet where there is otherwise more than enough to satisfy a dignified existence for all.

The controversy surrounding the Virgin Hotel is that while its frontage would be the former India Buildings on Victoria Street, the bulk of the building would be built on the adjoining land at the rear on the Cowgate.

This land was otherwise long set aside for the much needed re-development of Edinburgh Central Library, in recognition of this ‘cultural jewel’, a key resource in the literary and cultural landscape of the nation’s capital.

A hotel can go anywhere whereas the much needed extension to the Central Library, revitalising this most important public building, can only be built here. A World class redevelopment of the Library would be an inspiration to future generations and a fitting tribute to Edinburgh’s esteemed title as:

The World’s first
‘City  of  Literature’

To lose this public land to the Virgin Hotel would be to dishonour the Library’s founder, Andrew Carnegie, who at the opening ceremony in 1890 stated:

“We trust that this Library is to grow in usefulness year after year and prove one of the most potent agencies for the good of the people of Edinburgh for all time to come”.


Before plans for the hotel were developed a Council commissioned study concluded that:

“It would be a hugely wasted opportunity if the (Cowgate gap) site was developed for other uses without seriously considering how it could, not just solve the existing problems of the Central Library, but re-invent the Central Library in a form relevant to 21st century needs and aspirations. The concept of expansion on the site addresses virtually all problems currently relating to the Library”.

“The excessive pressure on the use of space is the key conservation issue that needs to be addressed… the fundamental problem faced by the Library is that it is simply not big enough for the population it serves… the physical limits of the current buildings do not allow the Library to grow in usefulness… It is clear that the current situation cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely and that if a radical solution to the problems faced by the Library is not adopted the Library and its facilities will become increasingly at risk of closure”.

Besides the critical need for expansion, the study of the Library revealed that:

Many parts of the Library are inaccessible by wheelchairFire and rescue services have refused to take responsibility to evacuate people with special access needs from most parts of the Library which further limits access for people with limited mobility to library services. These limitations could be considered discriminatory under the Disability Discrimination Act


“I warmly support this righteous protest by the citizens of Edinburgh against the unacceptable plans of the City Council for the Central Library and its environs.”

– Professor Emeritus Sir Tom Devine

Besides fundamentally compromising the Library’s future, the proposed hotel would block iconic views to The Castle from the Edinburgh and Scottish Rooms of the Library, significantly reducing light: a terrible irony given that the building was purposely designed to maximise natural light, complimented by the Sun’s rays and inscription set above the main entrance:



Inspired by Robert Burns and the Scottish Enlightenment, Scots born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie established thousands of public libraries throughout the World.  The Edinburgh Central Library, Carnegie’s finest Scottish Library, was the first public library in the city and is now the busiest lending library in the country.

“On the face of it, this seems an extraordinary betrayal of Carnegie’s intentions and a slap in the face for Edinburgh’s great cultural heritage. The details suggest an even more cynical approach by the Council.”

– Rory Bremner

Aside from the Library, the proposed development would also have very serious implications for the Old Town Community, already reaching a critical point due to the commercial pressures of recent years, adding to the excessive levels of congestion, noise and air pollution (in breach of regulations), while putting the future of the World Heritage status at further risk.




“No millionaire will go wrong in his search for one of the best forms for the use of his surplus who chooses to establish a free library in any community that is willing to maintain and develop it… A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert… There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library; this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”

– Andrew Carnegie


Dunfermline Library, the first Carnegie endowed library, has just been honoured with an award winning extension…. Meanwhile down in England, Birmingham Council has recently spent almost £200 million on a new central library which has become a key focal point, invigorating the city with a sense of pride and worth and revisioning the vital importance of the public library, as a ‘Beacon of Civilisation’ into the 21st century.

With sufficient support, Edinburgh Central Library can resist these predatory times of speculation, precipitated by austerity, and be respectfully honoured, ensuring a bright future that enriches Edinburgh’s cultural heritage, inspiring future generations in pursuit of enlightenment!

“I have spent many, many hours reading, researching and borrowing books from the Central Library over the years, and I’m appalled at the City Council’s low regard for what should be cherished, and cared for, as one of Edinburgh’s cultural jewels”.

  – James Robertson


Thank You for taking the time to consider this important campaign…

Let There Be Light!