Brian Monteith: Why should we bail out Hearts?

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Do you ever wonder if our local council rulers actually live in Edinburgh? It has come to light that our beloved council leaders (that’s the SNP and Liberal Democrats) apparently commissioned a joint study into the ability to develop Tynecastle Park and the need for an athletics stadium with – wait for it – Heart of Midlothian, one of Edinburgh’s two professional football teams with debts to match the council’s and just as much hope of clearing them.

Lo and behold the study has said that the current football facilities at Tynecastle cannot be developed and a new joint venture, built by the council in partnership with the Hearts, makes for a sensible alternative.

Well I never. Never has a self- fulfilling prophecy been more obvious.

I’m bound to be accused of being a bitter Hibby, but let me be plain and straight to the point: doing nothing is a better alternative.

What about the new schools that have been promised for so long but are still waiting to be built? What about the facilities for the homeless, the infirm and the old that are being pared back?

What about the holes in the roads that make Edinburgh the worst in Britain and worse than many so-called third-world cities that I visit, worse than Lagos or even Havana?

What about the existing facilities that are crying out for proper refurbishment and require serious investment such as the King’s Theatre?

And whatever happened to all those schemes for a concert hall at Granton and sports facilities at Hunter’s Hall?

Oh, and let’s not forget the problem of paying for the Commonwealth Pool refit (£30 million plus) or the world’s largest black hole in the ground for climbers at Ratho.

And how could we ever forget the trams that will not go where they were promised and my grandchildren will still be paying for when I’m pushing up Edinburgh’s daisies? The egocentric political pipe dreams of the old Labour rulers was bad enough, but at least they thought they had money coming to them. This football fairytale is inexcusable, being at a time when the council is essentially on its uppers, stoney-broke, bust.

How the consultants who wrote this report must be laughing all the way to the bank at the taxpayers’ expense. A joint study? How much did it cost, what was the Hearts share, will they pay it and does the council have liability if they don’t?

And, wait a minute, what about the evidence that said a new stand with a hotel at Tynecastle was a vital and viable development? Are new hotels not still being announced for Edinburgh on a monthly basis?

What’s changed so much at Tynecastle that requires the council to come to the rescue?

Meanwhile, across the city the other football team complete the development of their ground without a penny of public money.

As for the opposition councillors, where is their bark? I haven’t heard a single snarl or yelp against this needless aggrandisement from Labour or the Tories. Could they not go into the coming local election saying they will abandon such unaffordable pipe dreams as a condition of forming a new ruling administration?

Edinburgh is by far one of the loveliest cities in the world – despite the best efforts of our council leaders. Just imagine how unbeatable it could be if they were to actually get the management of city facilities right?

After the trams debacle, that came on the back of so many other poor judgment calls by councillors over the last 30 years, Edinburgh needs to rebuild its trust in local politicians.

The way to do this is to recognise what is really important to people – basic services that work well and are affordable. Then, and only then, will it be time to think what icing on the cake Edinburgh should have.

Just hugger off

I NOTE that some readers were less than enamoured by my dismissal last week of the protests against Wall Street and international capitalism as the work of ne’er do wells and professional agitators. One even suggested I get a real job myself.

How I smiled on reading that. Writing this week from southern Africa, where I am helping a project that will bring electricity to villages that live in the dark, that will power the hospitals and schools that we take for granted, and create jobs for unemployed youths desperate for work, I think I know something about poverty and the causes of it.

Globalisation – the single word used to describe what used to be called international trade – has brought more relief from poverty, fed more mouths and delivered greater economic freedom than any other movement experienced by man in his short history on this planet. It has its flaws but it certainly beats the alternatives.

This week we found out that most of the tents outside St Paul’s Cathedral are not slept in at night – the protesters commute from the comfort of their London apartments or take the train from Brighton or Cambridge.

It’s time to clear the area and erect something symbolic of how we really help unemployment – replace the tree-huggers with Christmas tree- sellers and stalls and let honest workers trade their way to creating prosperity.