Comment: Edinburgh’s poverty divide must be tackled

Today's Evening News front page.
Today's Evening News front page.
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FrEE city centre wifi is great news for Edinburgh – there is no two ways about it. Residents and visitors alike increasingly expect easy online access when they are out and about. They want to be able to log on and search for everything from shopping bargains to cinema listings and connect with their friends on social media.

And they want to be able to do it without being charged a fortune by their mobile phone company or having to hunt for a cafe with free wifi.

Edinburgh to get free Wi-Fi this summer

That is the beauty of what is effectively a city centre-wide “hot spot”. Smartphone users across the city will be hoping the connections are as good as the providers, IntechnologyWiFi, promise.

Compared to other great cities around the world Edinburgh is actually pretty late to the party. 
It was in danger of being left behind.

But now it is here the benefits are enormous, from new opportunities for businesses to attract customers through smart online advertising to the higher profile Edinburgh will enjoy on social media around the world. Just imagine the explosion of fantastic photos of Edinburgh that will fill cyberspace whenever the Fringe or Hogmanay celebrations get under way.

The cost of this – which is being covered entirely by the UK Government – should rightly be viewed as an investment in our city, it businesses and its quality of life.

But we make no apologies for highlighting another, contrasting issue alongside this one on the front page of our paper today.

Church vows to tackle ‘obscene’ homeless problem in Edinburgh

New Kirk Moderator Dr Russell Barr is absolutely right that the number of people sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation in a city as rich as Edinburgh is “obscene”. It is impossible to walk through the city centre, or many other neighbourhoods, on most days without seeing the stark evidence of the problem in front of you.

Free wifi is an investment in the wealth and quality of life of our Capital – but far too many people are still locked out of enjoying those benefits.

Much good work is being done in the city to tackle this divide between the “haves” and “have nots”, by among others Dr Barr’s Fresh Start project and the One City Trust championed by Lord Provost.

The reasons for this exclusion are many and varied, including the availability of affordable housing and other services. As the Moderators says, much, much work needs to be done to ensure everyone enjoys the spoils of the city’s success.