PERFORMERS say the rising rents will make the Edinburgh Festival elitist. The truth is it already is. Those who have lived alongside it have known this for years.

As someone who lived in Edinburgh for most of my adult life, and who has been involved in the Fringe in some capacity for most of that time, I’ve watched it morph from something dazzlingly Bohemian into a bona fide cash cow. The metamorphosis hasn’t been pretty. It’s become a portrait of rampant capitalism at its most naked and ugly.

I first got involved in the Fringe when I was 17 years old. I was helping to flyer for a starving comic, working on a cash-in-hand – or more often booze-in-hand – basis. I was sharing a single bed in a rented flat, in the sort of gloweringly grimy place Jarvis Cocker would sing about. It was a far cry from today’s expensive summer flat-shares.

Our home for the month of August was a flat in the recently-vacated Edinburgh student halls, complete with the remnants of its former residents. There was even another comedian sleeping on the floor because he couldn’t make enough money to pay the rent.

Now, I’m not saying that this kind of penury is somehow a more authentic experience for an artist – but I do think there was something more honest about participating in the festival in this way. It wasn’t about the money; it really was about the love of the art. Any cash was a bonus.

No-one expected to make any money out of it. The whole Fringe experience was entirely that it was an experience. It was not a money-making exercise in the slightest.

Fast forward 15 years and things are barely recognisable. There is little evidence of anyone just trying to get by, living on coffee, cheap wine and 17p noodles, just to make it through the three weeks.

The whole of the festival has a patina of privilege and a veneer that comes with the ever-increasing commercialisation of the arts. Right now, it’s entirely possible to spend a whole day wandering around the Royal Mile, the Cowgate, Bristo Square and any of the other hotspots without encountering a single struggling comic or playwright passionate about their show.

People have teams handing out flyers who are only as invested in the promotion as their wage expects them to be. Today the festival feels like one, giant impersonal advertising exercise, designed to make the big venues as much money as possible. If you don’t have a giant, glossy, professional poster, you might as well not be there.

There is news today about the exorbitant fees performers have to pay to come to Edinburgh, but this has always been a problem. What’s compounding it is the transient landlordism determined to squeeze every possible pound out of performers and visitors. I’ve known people who move out of their homes for the summer just to sublet them and make four times the rent they usually pay. It’s crooked, and rampant and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. But to say that this is the only marker of a festival that becomes elitist is to ignore how the festival has been experienced by the residents of Scotland for a long time.

Most people can barely afford to come to see shows. They are expensive because the ticket prices are hiked to make a profit after paying the enormous venue fee. Factor into that travel and accommodation, and it just doesn’t seem worth it.

There is little appeal in coming from far away to not be able to stay over, or to find somewhere to eat or see something that hasn’t had the life sucked out of it by making it profitable.

There is very little about this Festival that is unique to Edinburgh or to Scotland for that matter. If you didn’t know any better or were to try to guess from the programme alone, it could be anywhere in the world.

Increasingly it feels like Scotland is just a convenient backdrop for a few weeks of the year, rather than a place that is a joy to attend and experience. It feels like London has been miniaturised, excised and grafted on to the city. You can walk around the beer gardens, the pop-ups and see little if any evidence of where this unique festival hails from.

The squeeze on the pockets of performers and attendees is killing the festival. What remnants there are of this once eclectic extravaganza our city was famous for are disappearing with each year.

More and more these days, it has become something to be endured rather than celebrated. It’s a crying shame.