Edinburgh’s ‘Endarkenment’

Inscription above the entrance of Edinburgh’s Central Library on George IV Bridge

Read that inscription in the image above, then have a ponder on this …

In 1890, world famous industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gifted the Central Library to Edinburgh. Inspired by the Scottish Enlightenment, he was a dedicated, generous supporter of education for all, and was no doubt equally inspired by his own humble beginnings in Dunfermline.

An important part of this gift was the plot of land adjacent to the library which allowed light to flow in through the large windows (a design feature to remedy the fact that the other side of the library didn’t receive enough light because of nearby buildings).

Recently, Edinburgh Council decided to sell off this adjacent plot of land for 3.5 million, then allowed a hotel development company to go ahead with their, I quote, ‘visionary’ proposal to build a nine storey hotel on the site, which will (you guessed it!) block about eighty percent of the light.

Before I go into any more detail, for those of you who don’t have time to read on, please click on the Crowdfunder link below, to donate what you can or share the link to help pay for the £27, 000 upcoming court case to contest this decision…


As Rory Bremner put it in March this year:

this seems an extraordinary betrayal of Carnegie’s intentions and a slap in the face for Edinburgh’s great cultural heritage.”

Last night I went along to a talk and fund raiser awareness event, led by various groups under the umbrella of the campaign ‘Let there be light’. Link  – lettherebelightedinburgh.org


There were inspired talks by the architects, community groups and individuals involved, also a film by someone who prefers to be known just by his first name, ‘Simon’, who installed himself permanently in a tree for eight days to prevent bulldozers moving in. (Some stills from the talk, below)

From the ‘Let there be light’ campaign wesbite: “In these troubled times, the City of Edinburgh Council has become so heavily in debt, to the tune of BILLIONS, it is undertaking the disposal of the City’s family silver and gold, while sanctioning speculative mediocrity, described as ‘architectural wallpaper’, so otherwise demeaning as to now threaten the City’s highest accolade, the twin World Heritage status”. 

Edinburgh, birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment, recognised by UNESCO as the world’s City of Literature. Also, home to one of the most inept councils in the UK …

Despite being regularly voted one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, celebrated for its architecture, with the world’s largest arts festival, all of which draws around four million visitors each year, many of Edinburgh’s A listed buildings are regularly threatened with shoddy commercial developments, not to mention the selling of public/community-owned sites for private profit.

Proposed plan for hotel, showing how much of the library (behind) will be obscured

It seems inexplicable when these buildings are among Edinburgh’s most valuable assets, but then when you consider that the council is in debt thanks to (among other things) the clusterf**k (that’s the accepted general term of reference) of the trams development, which also helped close down many fledgling businesses across the city thanks to limited access while pointless road diggings went ahead, only to be halted and patched up, messily, a year later, it explains their motivation, if not their limited ability to think up coherent, rational answers to debt.

As a friend recently pointed out, the council takes 5 million each year for parking fines alone, why sell off a piece of land with significant cultural heritage for 3.5 million? There were numerous proposals for green areas with one-storey glass buildings/resource centres, additional cafes and so on. Yet these were ignored.

Short-term profit and mindless greed aside, what really hurts is the ignorance and lack of vision. There’s something soul-destroying and heart-breaking in these developments when considered in the light of Carnegie’s vision –



Here’s the link again below, please share or donate (they take bank details or paypal, if the target amount of £27, 000 isn’t raised within 51 days, no money will leave your account)


3 thoughts on “Edinburgh’s ‘Endarkenment’

  1. hinse of hinseveldt

    A wonderful article raising awareness about the plight of Central Library, Edinburgh. Especially, now that the only thing left for residents and visitors and library-lovers worldwide to do is to take the Council to the Court of Session to challenge the consented planning application, for which money is needed for legal costs and being raised through Crowdfunder.

    (If I may however, just let you know that the library opened its doors to the public in 1890, its foundation stone was laid by Andrew Carnegie himself in 1887, which is also when the land for the library was bought, together with an additional piece of land to its west to ensure its daylighting and fresh air circulation.

    Also, the website is lettherebelightedinburgh.org)


    1. rosestrang Post author

      Thank you for these kind comments, I hope this post encouraged a few more people to donate.
      Thanks also for corrections to the date of opening and the website, I’ll update these now for clarity.
      Keeping my fingers crossed for the campaign!
      Best wishes, Rose

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Target reached! | Rose Strang Artworks

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