Leading article: Culture shock

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Edinburgh can take pride in the fact that its pioneering idea, dreamt up in the depths of post-war austerity, of holding a city-wide festival of arts and culture has been replicated all around the globe. But as the Edinburgh Festival prepares to celebrate its 60th birthday this summer, there are rumblings of doubt, too.

A report commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council suggests that Edinburgh's position as the world's foremost arts festival is under serious threat.

The report identifies an increase in "cultural competition" to the festival from other cities, such as Singapore and Montreal. There is also a threat from other cities in Britain, such as Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, which are spending more on their own arts festivals.

The Scottish Executive could probably do more to help the festival. The Fringe is losing its annual grant from the Scottish Arts Council from next year, and the International Festival is running a deficit. Scotland's politicians would not be forgiven if they sat back while Edinburgh's cultural status declined.

The festival is hugely important for creating jobs and attracting tourism to Scotland. It is estimated that it generates £184m a year north of the border. But there is a limit to what the authorities can do to promote arts events.

Keeping a festival buzzing is not just a question of money. It is also about new ideas. It is here, just as much in the funding stakes, that Edinburgh must compete. Cultural competition, just like its commercial counterpart, is no respecter of former glories.

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