Edinburgh's small businesses slam city-wide A-board ban

A citywide ban on all temporary on-street advertising boards has caused consternation among small businesses across Edinburgh. 

Published 6th Nov 2018
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

The ban, which came in to force on Monday (5th November), could see businesses who continue to use them seeing their A-boards removed by the council before being billed for the costs.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh council said that they hope the ban will create "safer, more accessible streets", particularly for those with disabilities such as sight impairments and mobility difficulties.

However, the move has angered several small businesses who rely on the temporary advertising to draw in customers.

Edinburgh A-board ban

Picture: TSPL

Owner of Monty’s Bar on Morrison street, James MacDougall, believes the ban is a waste of time and will only hurt small businesses, he said: “I have a very slim line A-board that I do put out in front of my bar, it has a few bits of information on it that folk read all the time. It’s about the same width as the electrical box that sits on the other side of the door. So people usually have to walk around it anyway.

“During the last 6 Nations, I got one of my members of staff to write something in French on my A-board – for four days they were coming in because of our sign.

"During the summer months you find that obviously people love sitting outside, understandably so. Edinburgh is not designed for mass outside seating. Some bars we have to walk in the street to get passed because the seating is pushed to the limits or even ignored by the public, and the bar staff don't enforce the rules.

"There is absolutely no way that you could get wheel chairs past these bars. I've never seen the council out to enforce these rules.

“Yet again they [the council] are trying to hurt small businesses, while they cut down 53 trees in Princess Street Gardens to make way for more pop up Christmas shops.

“If it’s truly about decluttering our walkways then these things should be the first to go.”

• READ MORE: City-wide pub A-board ban to come into effect in Edinburgh

Another pub owner, Mark Morris, who runs Jeanie Deans on St Leonard's Hill, said that the ban could result in a huge drop in takings for his bar, he said: "If it wasn't for the street sign we have on the main road (St Leonard's Street) our sales would be down massively.

'Say Aye To A Pie': Wagamama launches new Chicken Katsu Pie in Glasgow and Edinburgh

"We are a small back street pub hidden behind a police station and our sign on the main road is seen by hundreds of passing students, tourists and motorists."

Mr Morris added that their A-board is small enough to not be an obstruction on the main street, he added:  "The pavement area where the sign is around 8 foot wide and our sign doesn’t block anyone at all. We will suffer massively with this ban and there is no alternative solution for us."

Self-employed sign painter and chalkboard artist Charley Lion is another who believes the ban could affects small businesses in the capital, she said: "I do think the ban is a real shame, as a-boards are a really effective and cost efficient way for small businesses to advertise. Often after I’ve completed an a-board for a business I’ll hang about to watch and usually see it have an immediate impact in getting customers through the door.

"I don’t know how the ban will affect my business personally. I do produce and decorate a lot of a-boards for customers but I assume I’ll be alright as people will always need signage. I’m more upset as I enjoyed producing a-boards as they are a personalised piece of advertising that I know works."

The artist believes that there are plenty of other examples of pointless, immovable street furniture in Edinburgh and that it seems unfair that the thing that being removed is one that really benefits small business.

Two Scottish restaurants gain three AA Rosettes for 2024

She added: "It is also such a varied city in terms of street sizes, hills and cobbles, I think a blanket ban is too extreme. Most of my customers have been very thoughtful about where they place there A-boards and have no intention of blocking the street or making it difficult for people passing."

It's not just pubs and coffee shops who are being affected, Edinburgh, a city that is famed for its walking tours, could see some of them suffer also.

Kathleen Brogan, managing director of Mercat Tours, said that though they have complied with the council's orders, the company feels the ban is unfair and directly affects their business as a whole, she said: "Since 1985, Mercat Tours have offered a 5 star, accessible and inclusive experience for visitors every day, as standard. Therefore, we support the spirit of any policy that ensures a sustainable, high quality experience for visitors and residents in Edinburgh, whilst allowing responsible businesses to thrive.

"With regards the recent signage ban, we are ready to help shape a united single proposal to solve the issues created by the council policy. The aim of any policy should be to achieve a simple, positive and attractive solution for all operators to support, council to adopt and manage and that aspires to a quality experience for visitors and residents."

Mercat Tours were already forced to remove a more permanent structure on the Royal Mile - created and designed working closely with Edinburgh Council and their planning department - in August due to "security concerns".

Aldi launch a 'once in a lifetime' Easter egg competition

Since then flags had been used to notify their visitors of their meeting point. These have now also been removed as per the banning order.

Ms Brogan added: "We have had no response from our councillors on the matter, despite frequent offer to support and collaborate on a solution. Therefore, Mercat Tours has voluntarily complied with all council requests, despite these being discriminatory and arguably unlawful and our business has suffered as a direct consequence.

"Inconsistent and arbitrary enforcement in contradiction of the council’s own commitments to ‘help mitigate the effect of the policy on businesses’ is unfair and irresponsible in the extreme.

"As a significant local employer, and family business, who has contributed business rates and followed Council licencing requirements since 1985, the greatest threat my company, staff and future growth currently face is from our own local authority.”

When asked for a comment in response, Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said: “We understand the importance of a thriving local economy and have worked with a range of stakeholders, including traders’ associations and Business Improvement Districts, throughout this process to provide advice and guidance on alternative forms of advertising.

“Ultimately this is about creating a safer, more accessible streetscape for pedestrians of all abilities and by introducing a citywide ban we want to level the playing field, ensuring streets across Edinburgh are free of obstructions. While this ban only covers temporary on-street advertising we do fully intend to reduce all kinds of street clutter in the long term.

“Now the ban is in place our environmental wardens will be visiting businesses across the city to raise awareness of the change and to ensure compliance. Following the initial bedding-in period more formal enforcement will be carried out with those that refuse to comply.”



Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
Copyright ©2024 National World Publishing Ltd
Cookie SettingsTerms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy
crosschevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram