Edinburgh's largest-ever Christmas market leaves people divided

James Matthews, Scotland correspondent

Edinburgh is to review the future organisation of its Christmas market amid controversy over the showpiece attraction.

This year's German-themed market, the city's biggest yet, provoked complaints when it emerged the organisers set it up without planning permission this year and last.

Heritage groups say it reflects a blinkered pursuit of the tourist pound, at the expense of local interests.

The market, situated in Princes Street Gardens beneath Edinburgh Castle, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and generates more than £100m for the local economy. However, it has reignited concerns surrounding over-tourism in Scotland's capital.

Terry Levinthal of the Cockburn Association, an organisation that promotes Edinburgh's cultural and architectural heritage, told Sky News: "It's not as if Christmas markets aren't good things, they can be really interesting, vibrant and vital activities that take place. But what's been driving the Christmas market in Edinburgh is a tourism kind of agenda. It's not about people who live here, it's not about people who work here and it's been driven on what really seems to be an exploitation, tourism growth kind of agenda.

"So when it emerged that this huge structure was being put in the heart of Edinburgh's World Heritage site, an incredibly sensitive place, without planning consent, no building warrant or public entertainment license, it gave the impression that whatever the tourism wants it can get."

The City of Edinburgh Council has apologised for the planning blunder, citing complications with ongoing building work on the market's location. The council says it will have a "broader conversation" about "how its winter celebrations will look in future".

Balancing visitor and local interests is a challenge faced by cities worldwide.

Councillor Adam McVey, leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, told Sky News: "It's making sure that our economy's balanced. It's worth remembering when we didn't have such a vibrant hospitality industry, unemployment in this city was way higher than it is now. I don't think that's a position we ever want to get back to.

"By using our hospitality sector to re-balance some of our economy, provide opportunities to people across our communities, I think we can make sure our economy is much more inclusive and participative for everyone right across the city. For me, the council and the city, the fundamental is protecting the residents' experience."

Ed Bartlam, a director of Underbelly, the company which produces the Edinburgh event, told Sky News: "It's hugely popular, it brings in people of all generations and all ages. I think there's a risk that one can listen too much to hard, kind of cultural snobbery views on this kind of event.

"This event is an event for everybody, it brings huge economic value to the city, over £100m of additional income into the city from this event, but also it brings a real sense of happiness and joy to all ages and all types of people, both locals and visitors."