Comment: Offers of help show Edinburgh at its best

File picture: Jane Barlow

File picture: Jane Barlow

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THERE is a tired old image of us in Edinburgh that is best summed up by that familiar jibe, You’ll have had your tea.

Unlike our gallus west coast cousins, we are standoffish, a little cold and unwelcoming, or so the stereotype goes. Anyone who has lived in the Capital for any length of time knows that idea is a million miles from reality. There has been dramatic proof of that in recent days during the schools closure crisis.

When the bombshell news landed last Friday that the Edinburgh Schools Partnership could not guarantee the safety of pupils at 17 city schools, the city council was facing a monumental task. How do you find alternative accommodation for more than 7000 pupils at the drop of a hat? Somewhere they will be safe, able to study and eat their lunch.

Then the telephone began to ring at the City Chambers – and it barely stopped. There was the city’s football clubs, churches, universities, private firms both big and small, and staff at the Scottish Parliament. They were all doing the same thing. Calling unprompted to ask the city council what they could do to help the pupils and staff affected. The same spontaneous gesture being repeated time and again.

The message from each was essentially the same. We’ve got spare rooms that you can use if you need them. What else can we do to help?

Andrew Kerr, the city’s recently arrived chief executive, among others was taken aback by the goodwill and readiness to drop whatever was happening to help.

Practical considerations mean many of the offers are not being taken up, with children being moved into spare classrooms in other schools instead, but the willingness was there. And some businesses are helping out in small ways, like Edinburgh Castle and Our Dynamic Earth taking one group of affected children for a day out.

It is reminiscent of the way in which the communities in north Edinburgh reacted when young Mikaeel Kular was reported missing. Thousands turned out to help in the search for the tragic schoolboy.

There is a strong sense of community in Edinburgh, which perhaps comes in part from being a city small enough for many of us to know each other well.

Standoffish, cold, unwelcoming? Who, us? You’ve got to be kidding.