Comment: ‘Green space was by far the best option’

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THE collective sigh of relief that emanated from parents across east Edinburgh yesterday must have been so loud it would have been heard for miles. The Scottish Parliament’s backing of plans for a new high school on Porty Park means that pupils will finally get what they should have had almost a decade ago – a decent, modern school. Thousands of children will benefit over the coming years.

That might seem like a cause for celebration. But after years of hard-fought campaigning there was only relief among those involved, mixed with sadness for all the current and former pupils who have missed out.

Building the new school on green space was always, in truth, a second-best option – but it was by far the best one available. It will provide the best possible facilities and, crucially, it’s a plan that a local authority facing a £120 million funding blackhole can deliver.

But by far the best argument for this plan was always, ironically, that it was common good land set aside for the benefit of the local community.

One of the biggest consultation exercises ever carried out in the Capital proved that an overwhelming majority of local people felt this was the best use of this land.

That is why the suggestion of protesters that this is “a bleak day for democracy” is perplexing.

The go-ahead for building the new school on the park is a perfect example of democracy in action. The local community made clear what its wishes were, the local council and MSPs listened and acted. That is exactly how it should be. This was a good day for local democracy – and a good day for the children of east Edinburgh.

Prayers answered

LESLEY BENZIES is following in a fine Edinburgh tradition with his purchase of St Stephen’s Church. This is a city built on philanthropy from the Usher Hall to the National Portrait Gallery and Fettes College to George Heriot’s. Wealthy benefactors have quite literally made the city what it is today.

In preserving the community use of St Stephen’s – a vital asset well-used by local groups – Mr Benzies will ensure it will continue to thrive and be enjoyed well into the future.

Locals who have been understandably anxious to discover the fate of the building will be breathing a sigh of relief today and will look forward to discussing the plans with Mr Benzies.

The way he made his millions could not be more different to the great philanthropists of old, the sentiment is the same. We wish him well with his new purchase.