Gina Davidson: Small gestures are big things

The US Consulate building in Regent Terrace. Picture: Greg Macvean
The US Consulate building in Regent Terrace. Picture: Greg Macvean
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SOME Scottish councils, mostly those of a left-wing bent, have a fine tradition of being international in their outlook.

Perhaps it’s the Labour history of looking beyond borders and finding solidarity with others in strife, in ­poverty, or facing injustice. Perhaps, to those who believe councils should just focus on providing services and not getting involved with foreign affairs, it’s more about interfering where they’re not needed; or “young turks” being unable to shake off their student campaigns.

I like to think it’s the former, that solidarity with those trying to change political doctrines which keep them in subjugation is important, and that support in the smallest of ways from the other side of the world can have an impact.

Take the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s where the expression “work on the little things and big things happen” was never so apt.

In Edinburgh, Midlothian, Dundee and Glasgow councils did small things such as awarding Nelson Mandela freedom of the city, changing street names, naming rooms in city chambers after him, urging people to boycott South African goods – none of it might have amounted to much but as part of a much wider movement it all added to the pressure against the apartheid regime, which as we all know, eventually collapsed.

So I wasn’t surprised that Glasgow City Council recently decided to fly the Palestinian flag in support of the people of Gaza who are being bombed by Israel. Nor that Edinburgh councillor Adam McVey has suggested changing the name of Regent Terrace where the US Consulate sits to “The State of Palestine Terrace”, to show solidarity with Gazan civilians – even if the name hardly rolls off the tongue.

But the Palestine question is vastly different to that of apartheid South Africa, and indeed if the “city” is to show its support to Palestine it ought by rights to be changing Melville Street, where the Russian consulate is located, to Kiev Street.

I have no issue with the council showing support for those who are suffering from injustice and aggression anywhere in the world – in fact, I fully support it.

In this case it is Gaza, which is without question the underdog in this situation, but support in this case has to tempered by strong opposition to anti-semitism. For no matter that Cllr McVey says his renaming idea was to put pressure on the US to withdraw its opposition to Palestine being a full member of the United Nations, it could easily be twisted and that ­message lost.

If there’s one thing that being a parent teaches you it’s that you can hate the behaviour, but not the person. So let the council, the city, its people ­condemn the killing – on either side – but not all Jews or Muslims.

There are many Jews in the world who hate what Israel is doing to Gaza. There are many Muslims who believe Hamas is wrong too. Perhaps flying the flags of both countries together would give a better indication of the peaceful outcome the politicians in the City Chambers want. Perhaps that’s too wishy-washy, but not as much as just flying the Disasters Emergency Committee banner which will likely be approved as being the least thing likely to cause offense. Student politicking is definitely in the past.

But whatever your view on Cllr McVey’s suggestion, the fact he has people talking about the situation how Edinburgh should – or indeed if it should – respond to it, has to be a good thing. From talking comes actions, even small ones can mean big things.

Equality goals should mean ‘equal’

NOW the polling cards are out the rhetoric in the referendum campaign is being stepped up.

Expect everything, including the kitchen sink, to be thrown by both sides as the battle for hearts and minds over the next month reaches a crescendo. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

But it’s good to see that not all government business has ground to a halt in the meantime.

Equalities minister Shona Robison has been asking for the transfer of legal powers to Holyrood so that inequalities in Scottish boardrooms can be dealt with now, rather than only promising it in the aftermath of independence.

Sadly, though, it’s just for the 40 per cent number which seems to have been settled on as progress, but not enough to scare the horses.

Let’s have a little more commitment to it and go for more. Women do make up 52 per cent of the population after all.

But we’re not greedy, we’ll go halves.

Go west and leave behind our rubbish services

KIRKLISTON often feels like a forgotten part of the city of Edinburgh. Way out past Gogar, the airport, Ratho and Newbridge it feels a very long way away from the City Chambers and more like a better geographical fit for neighbouring local authority West Lothian than the capital city.

Certainly Lothian Buses thought so for long enough, leaving the village’s bus service with FirstBus. And now, despite its rapid expansion due to house-building, even bin collection is elusive – for new homeowners at least.

For two months the folk in a new development didn’t have a collection. It’s been so bad that they started taking it to the dump - in Broxburn. Edinburgh council say it’s all been resolved and that it won’t happen again. But the city’s bin service is not good enough. Whether you’re in the centre or outskirts the one thing you expect for your cash is regular bin collections. Perhaps in this year of referendum, Kirkliston might look at seceding and heading west.