Porty Park campaigners blast £20 fee to lodge objections to Bill

Members of PPAG have blasted a levy for lodging protests being charged by Scottish Parliament officials. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Members of PPAG have blasted a levy for lodging protests being charged by Scottish Parliament officials. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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CAMPAIGNERS fighting a private Bill that could see a new high school built on ­Portobello Park have slammed a “restrictive” ruling which forced them to pay £20 to ­object to it.

Members of Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) said the Scottish Parliament objection levy would “almost certainly” have put poorer residents off expressing their views on the legislation during a 60-day consultation period.

City education chiefs ­introduced the Bill in April to reclassify Portobello Park as “alienable common good land” and remove a legal ­barrier to using it as the site of a building to replace the ­Capital’s largest high school.

But PPAG spokeswoman Alison Connelly is convinced the cash would have put some hard-pressed residents off ­having their say.

She said: “As the time for raising objections against a private Bill to allow the City of Edinburgh Council to build a new Portobello High School on Portobello Park has ended, PPAG is concerned that not all valid objections have a chance of being heard. A £20 levy is charged for each objection, which will almost certainly deter those who struggle financially from highlighting their thoughts about the Bill.”

PPAG members also said they were “surprised” the levy had not been made more widely known and criticised parliamentary criteria which they claimed meant the views of objectors who do not live close to Portobello Park would not be formally considered.

“Even before the time for objections came to a close, some objectors had been ­advised that their claims were invalid as they did not live close enough to the park,” said Ms Connelly.

“PPAG strongly believes –and have legal advice backing them – that if passed, Portobello Park Private Bill, will set a precedent for the treatment of other green space around the country.”

When the campaigners quizzed local MSP, Kenny ­MacAskill, about the fee he was stumped and is said to have admitted to them he’d never heard of it. However, Scottish Parliament officials said the agreement to charge private Bill objectors a fee had been in place since 2000 and had remained constant since then. A spokeswoman said: “Information about how to object to a private Bill is available on our website and indicates the need to pay a £20 fee.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com