Andrew Burns: Future bright after big year

Stills from the video of the artist's impression of the planned redevelopment of the St James Quarter.''St James Centre

Stills from the video of the artist's impression of the planned redevelopment of the St James Quarter.''St James Centre

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So this was the year that was: Scotland’s Big Year. And ours. I think we can look back with a certain amount of pride on what has been another busy year for the Capital.

The successful launch of the trams in May, with patronage continuing to perform well on both tram and bus; the role we played in the “best ever Commonwealth Games” in July; once again providing the stage for the world’s biggest and best arts festival in August; and, of course, the referendum.

The eyes of the world were well and truly fixed on Edinburgh throughout September and I have no doubt we left a good impression.

But alongside the triumphs, there were tragedies. And my heart goes out to the families of Mikaeel Kular and Keane Wallis-Bennett this Christmas – as it does to anyone who has lost a loved one this year.

Turning to the year ahead, and the many challenges that lie in store, starting almost immediately with that of balancing the council budget for 2015-16. We need to save £67 million over the next three years to make sure we can provide the services that are important to the people of Edinburgh.

This will undoubtedly result in some difficult decisions, which is why we published our draft budget back in September and invited you, the people of Edinburgh, to have your say.

I’m delighted that well over 2000 of you took that opportunity, the vast majority of whom completed our online budget planner.

I can assure you that now our consultation has ended, we will consider all feedback prior to setting our final budget on February 12.

Despite these challenges, there is still much for us to be positive about and I don’t want to lose sight of the encouraging economic news beginning to emerge across the city.

Unemployment in the Capital is now below two per cent, its lowest level since 2007 and well below the Scottish and UK averages. The same is true of youth unemployment, testament, at least in part, to the success of the Edinburgh Guarantee.

Then, as reported in the News last week, there was further positive news in relation to the former Royal High School, which looks set to be brought back into use for the first time in over four decades.

Taken alongside other major developments, including the St James Quarter, Haymarket and New Waverley, this demonstrates Edinburgh’s continued and strengthened ability to attract significant inward investment, crucial to the positioning of the city in Europe and to the creation of new job opportunities.

And as we move into the new year, Edinburgh will be working with neighbouring local authorities to secure further investment to fund infrastructure improvements, which will be of benefit to the whole Edinburgh city region and anyone who lives, works, studies, visits or does business here.

Clearly, there is much to look forward to but also much work to do in the year ahead.

I wish you the very best for a happy and successful 2015.

Councillor Andrew Burns is leader of Edinburgh City Council