FOR the first time in more than 70 years there will be no Festival and no Fringe in Edinburgh this August.

Gone, too, are the Edinburgh Art Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, with all five cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

News of the cancellation came yesterday afternoon and was described as “heart-breaking” by the First Minster.

Between them the festivals programme more than 5000 events and pull in audiences of around 4.4 million.

In a joint statement, organisers pointed out that the only event bigger is the Olympics.

READ MORE: Capital’s venues tell of sadness after festivals are cancellation

The lack of summer festivals will have huge financial repercussions for the capital, and in particular the city’s hospitality sector.

A 2015 study into the economic impact of the festivals said they were worth £280m to Edinburgh and £313m to Scotland. The report also estimated that 5660 jobs in the city were dependent on the annual event.

READ MORE: Wimbledon cancelled and Euro 2020 play-offs delayed again

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said the decision to cancel was “the only appropriate response” to Covid-19, adding: “The safety of participants, audiences, local residents and indeed everyone connected to our festivals will always come first.”

She said: “Culture brings out the best in us. It gives the marginalised a voice, it shapes and reshapes how we think of ourselves and, crucially, it unites us.

“Since their inception in 1947, the Edinburgh festivals have existed to champion the flowering of the human spirit and, in the face of this truly unprecedented global emergency, we believe that this spirit is needed now more than ever.”

Nick Barley, the director of the book festival, said the decision was not taken lightly.

“However the safety of not only our authors, our audiences, our staff and our suppliers, but also that of the people who live and work in our wonderful city, is of paramount importance and we believe that planning to bring large numbers of people from all over the world together in Edinburgh in August is not appropriate this year.”

Barley said he hoped to programme a series of online events for the summer.

Fergus Linehan, the director of the Edinburgh International Festival, said work was already under way for next year’s effort.

“The Edinburgh International Festival was born out of adversity – an urgent need to reconnect and rebuild.

“The current crisis presents all at the Festival with a similar sense of urgency.

“Work begins straight away on a 2021 Festival season that will boost both our spirits and our economy.”

Brigadier David Allfrey, chief executive of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, said coronavirus made it “impractical and undesirable” to stage the event.

Speaking in Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon said the government were working with organisers to make sure some of the freelancers who work on the festivals were still paid.

She told MSPs: “We’ve had confirmation earlier today that the Edinburgh festivals will not take place this summer for the first time in more than 70 years.

“This is a heart-breaking decision but absolutely the right one and another sign of how far reaching the impact of this epidemic will be.

“We’ve agreed that some Scottish Government support for the festivals can be used for different purposes such as ensuring that freelancers and artists are still paid, and we will of course work with the festivals to ensure that they return even stronger next year.”

Scotland is in lockdown. Shops are closing and newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of The National is at stake. Please consider supporting us through this with a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months by following this link: Thanks – and stay safe.