Donald Wilson: Leith still an important port

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Today marks a remarkable point in maritime history for Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth.

From the people who work in and around the Rosyth dockyards, to those Edinburgh-born crew members who will serve on the ship, Her Majesty’s official recognition today of HMS Queen Elizabeth being constructed on the shores of the Firth brings with it a renewed excitement for the area’s long-standing relationship with shipbuilding.

Rosyth Dockyard has been the build site for the Edinburgh affiliated ship, which will be the largest warship ever built for the Navy and capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft. Many hundreds of soldiers and airmen will join the ship’s sailors in operations over her 50-year life, including men and women for Edinburgh and the Lothians.

My mind goes back to the recent Freedom of the City for HMS Edinburgh. Known as the Fortress of the Sea, this ship was decommissioned in June last year and ever since I have been campaigning to bring it back to its rightful home in Edinburgh.

I believe a ship named after the Capital should be available for the people of Edinburgh to enjoy. The potential costs of making her a visitor attraction are of course unfeasible for the council, however I am hopeful that alternative sources of funding could still be found. The fight to bring HMS Edinburgh home is by no means over.

Leith has long been regarded as one of Scotland’s most important ports and the role of Leith in Edinburgh’s history should not be underestimated. It feels like a long time ago now, but in October I had the pleasure of hosting a seminar on boosting community engagement in Leith and the funding for this came through the Lord Provost’s One City Trust Rapid Action Fund, which I founded in order to target local level initiatives in the city. When I chaired that meeting, the idea of a museum for Leith was high on that agenda.

I’ve always felt that not just a museum, but a whole civic heart is needed in the area. It was with great relief that the council stepped in with a bid last week to purchase a venue that has fantastic potential for developing into such a civic hub in the form of Custom House, and testament to what hard work and campaigning can help bring to the city.

Donald Wilson is Lord Provost of Edinburgh