The latest Festival installation on the Royal Mile is reviewed here by David Black.

A week or so ago what's left of the citizenry of the Old Town awoke to discover that we had become a gated theme park, courtesy of the Home Office which had set up a number of military style check points to deter motorised terrorists who might take it upon themselves to cause havoc in the Royal Mile. Two points occurred. First, why didn't they think about this ten years ago, after terrorists had attempted, and failed, to attack Glasgow airport with a mobile car bomb? Second, hadn't they already installed granite bollards to protect pedestrians? Indeed, some of the bollards had to be removed to make way for concrete chicanes which will, logic suggests, make the emergency evacuation of the area less than efficient.

This was, of course, all a pretence by politicians (though not our local ones, to be fair. It seems they weren't consulted) to persuade us that they actually care about our safety, though we might be more convinced if they hadn't dragged us into one or two illegal wars in the first place, let's face it. It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that this high profile  ring-of-steel might suggest to some of the evildoers that Edinburgh is now a potential target worthy of their attention, with or without cars.

A few days after the national press coverage a lady with various spray cans appeared. The 'Bridge of Spies' style checkpoints, which looked as though sinister men in long leather coats would soon be demanding our papers, was transformed into a colourful 'rainbow pride' artwork. Could this be a case of recruiting the Telletubbies to scare off the terrorists? Let's hope it works.


A new essay by Nik Williams of Scottish PEN on the role of surveillance in our digitised society is featured in the latest volume of The Evergreen.