As the eyes of the world are on Glasgow for what will surely be its finest hour, it is worth pondering what a fantastic city it is. A city that has stepped out of the shadow of the trauma of a post-industrial landscape and is making huge progress. The Commonwealth Games will, I have no doubt, be a triumph. A games that will show the city at its very best – bold, brash and welcoming to the world. The Friendly Games are about to get even friendlier, and all Edinburgh should celebrate the success of our sister city in the west.
Edinburgh can look forward to success as well. The city economy is back on track, investment and cranes are rising as fast as the jobless numbers in the city are falling. The coming together of a lot of very smart people, and a city in which almost every turn of the corner, presents a picture postcard view.
Regardless of the outcome of the referendum in September, the future looks bright for Edinburgh. But not perfect. There are still pieces of the jigsaw missing. We do have the best stadium in Scotland at Murrayfield, the Festival, and the other festivals – Christmas included – world-class universities, a transformed Usher Hall, a refurbished Commonwealth Pool, and a quality of life second to none. Now we even have trams. It may have been a debacle, but they are here.
So what of the gaps? Well there’s still sport. The new performance academy was won by a stunning campaign that showed a united Edinburgh at its very best. But there’s Meadowbank. Having looked at developing a new sports facility on the west of the city because replacing Meadowbank would have meant levelling the site and starting again, that option was rejected and is gone. I well remember the disbelief expressed that Meadowbank couldn’t be refurbished, but seven years on that’s now been wholly accepted. The council has drawn up plans to demolish Meadowbank, sell some of the site and build new facilities in its place.
But be clear, we are not getting a replacement Meadowbank, a venue that can host major events and be a home to elite sporting performance in the same way Meadowbank was. No velodrome, no indoor athletics arena and perhaps only a 500 seater stadium. It is perfectly understandable that having struggled long and hard, and facing a choice of doing nothing or delivering what it can, the city looks set to deliver what it can. But is that right for the Capital and for east-central Scotland? I can well understand why we might not choose to have the full package, but should we have none of them?
So why not take the time between now and the referendum to think about just that. Glasgow’s city deal is £500 million. Edinburgh’s needs are less, but our city – like Glasgow – still needs investment. We have some of the smartest politicians in the land in the City Chambers, strong leaders. MSPs committed to making Edinburgh better. A Green MSP who champions sport. Sadly we no longer have Margo, but this is surely a cause she would have championed.After September 18 – and not a day before, it’s too important for games, why not a new deal for Edinburgh. A world-class city should have infrastructure to match and help breed the new Chris Hoys and Allan Wellses.
Police should be apologising over poor show
I VIVIDLY remember the distress of a neighbour more than a decade ago when the family viewing of Doctor Who was disturbed one Saturday night. “I need some help Donald, I don’t think I can take much more of this”, was the heartfelt plea. His house backs on to Gilmerton Primary and when we went to check there were about 20 kids between the ages of about eight and ten on the roof of the school, they were all drunk and still drinking. In those days youth disorder – much of it drink related – was the most pressing local issue in communities. The response was for Edinburgh to be the first city to pay for extra policing.
Since those days crime has been falling, and the Scottish Government and the council are to be commended for keeping resources in policing at record levels. Since 2005 in Scotland, crime has fallen by a cumulative reduction of more than 45 per cent. In Edinburgh, in one recent report it was stated that complaints of antisocial behaviour have fallen by 45 per cent in the last four years. Similar things are happening in other countries and nobody knows why.
So against a backdrop of falling crime, it is deeply depressing that recently in Edinburgh crime actually rose by 13 per cent. Clear-up rates fell. In addition, housebreaking was the worst for many years. It was so bad that Conservative heavyweight councillor Cameron Rose – himself an ex-policeman – said the community had “lost confidence in the police”.
The reason? Changes in practice since the creation of Police Scotland. Much is now being done to repair the damage, but families have been unnecessarily affected. It is the police, as well as the criminals, who should get some tough questioning on this one.
Greenspace Trust is full of heroes
YOU know you’re getting old when you get invited to speak at the 21st anniversary of an organisation that you helped set up, as I was some time ago by the Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust. The trust has worked hard improving parks, buildings and fields over the last few decades. Its work has pulled in huge sums of money to improve our green spaces, and I would argue, our quality of lives by making the spaces we have better and more accessible. It is a little-known fact the new Waverley Railway line was made easier (and cheaper) by the restoration of the Glenesk Viaduct by the trust. Elsewhere in countless locations, paths have been built, trees planted and parks transformed.
Chief executive Chris Lewis is stepping down. He has steered the organisation through funding cuts and many changes in councils. He is a local hero.
New CEO Charlie Cumming seems an inspired choice. Opening up our green space is important and this small band of local heroes looks well equipped to continue that task.