The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is expected to be put on hold due to Coronavirus with refunds offered to ticket holders, sources claimed.

The August festivals, including the Tattoo and the International Book Festival, have attracted a combined audience of more than four million in recent years and are thought to be worth more than £300 million to the economy.

There is thought to be broad agreement that all planning for events in Edinburgh in August should be brought to a halt until the UK’s current lockdown comes to an end and cultural venues are given the go-ahead to reopen.

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However, the Fringe Society does not have the power to cancel the festival, which has been an “open access” event since 1947, when a group of theatre companies refused entry to the first Edinburgh International Festival decided to stage their own event.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked about any moves to suspend preparations during a Scottish Government briefing on Tuesday. 

She said: "Fiona Hyslop as Culture Secretary has been engaged in discussions with cultural organisations, including, as I understand, the festivals. 

"This would be a decision for them – not just a decision for them to take, but a decision for them to announce. 

"So I think I will leave it to the festivals to set out their own intentions in their own timescale."

Several Fringe operators believe they could mount programmes at just a few weeks notice if restrictions have been eased at the start of July and that there would be enough audiences around in Edinburgh to make them viable.

An announcement is expected to be made tomorrow, the Edinburgh Evening News reported.

One insider said: “We are desperate to put on something in August, but only if the authorities say it is safe enough.

“No-one knows when that might be and no-one can plan anything on that basis at the moment.

“The only sensible thing for anyone involved in the Fringe to do at the moment is put things on hold for as long as it takes and see if things change.

“If Edinburgh is back open for business in August a lot of people in the city will be desperate to go out and be entertained.”

Another insider said: “The important thing to stress is that if anything was to go ahead in Edinburgh in August it would be on a much smaller scale than normal.

“The vast majority of the audience would be local and it’s highly unlikely many of the acts would be coming in from overseas.”

The deadline to secure entry to the official Fringe programme had previously been put back until early May and the launch of the event postponed until the second week in July.

But this was before the UK was put into lockdown and restrictions on all non-essential travel were imposed.

Last week Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy said work was ongoing to try to reach a “collective decision” on this year’s event and admitted, “definitive answers are needed.”

Ms McCarthy said at the time: “Public safety has been and will remain our top priority, alongside minimising the financial impact on participants at what is already an incredibly difficult time.

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“We’ve been in regular dialogue with the Scottish Government, the council, venues, partners and other stakeholders to work through all options and find solutions.

"This is a complicated process, but one that is moving forward daily.”

The festival has been approached for comment