it is refreshing to hear talk in the Capital’s corridors of power about Edinburgh showing more ambition.
We live in one of the greatest cities in the world and Sandy Howat, the new SNP leader on the council, is quite right that we sometimes need to set our sights higher.
Why can’t Edinburgh, for example, have a concert arena that draws some of the major artists that currently head only to the west coast? Or more top-class sporting facilities that will attract international competitions? Or do more to tackle inequality on our doorstep?
With a wealth of business and international experience, Cllr Howat has plenty to offer the city. But introducing the independence debate to the City Chambers six months after the country – and the people of Edinburgh in particular – voted against it is not one of them.
No-one expects a passionate advocate of independence to bend his convictions or stop espousing the cause altogether. But the focus in the City Chambers must stay firmly on the challenges facing Edinburgh. There is an honourable tradition of putting party differences aside in local politics to work for the greater good of the community. No-one wants city politics to become a hollow echo chamber of what is happening on the national stage.
Edinburgh has its own peculiar difficulties. This is a city with ageing and crumbling infrastructure, with school buildings no longer fit for purpose, roads that would shame a provincial backwater, never mind a proud capital, and a desperate shortage of affordable homes. We need to find ways of keeping more of the money we raise within the city to tackle these problems. These are the issues on which council taxpayers expect our councillors to focus.
Edinburgh might or might not gain from independence, but it has, on the whole, flourished without it. It can continue to do so, if our city leaders show enough ambition to tackle the problems on our doorstep.