Gina Davidson: We require a driving vision

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FEELING happy are we? So you should be. After all you live in the most contented city in the UK.

What’s that? The distant sound of laughter? But it’s true, you know. Five thousand people – out of a city which is home to around 500,000 – said so. However that would have been before they read Professor Richard Williams’ theories earlier in the week about the decline of Scotland’s capital and its lack of long-term vision. Perhaps if they’d been questioned after that, the results might have been different.

But probably not. After all, the council survey was about the services it supplies and people’s satisfaction with them. And it shows there are distinct areas where the council needs to do better – refuse collection, dog fouling and maintenance of roads in particular. A certain phrase coined by Sherlock Holmes springs to mind.

What the survey didn’t question people about though was the very themes that Williams was discussing in his piece for the US magazine Foreign Policy. The Edinburgh University professor was lamenting the fact that large infrastructure projects are handled so badly, that the recession has ended construction works, leaving places like Granton half-done, and already falling apart given the haste in which much of the boom year buildings were thrown up. More than anything he is concerned there is no driving vision for Edinburgh.

That’s an issue which should concern us all. Ever since the Scottish Parliament was put in the wrong place – ending the idea of regeneration for the east end of the city centre which has left the St James Centre development still hanging – and the wheels began to come off the tram project – grand ideas have failed to emanate from the City Chambers.

There’s obviously been much concern about the mess of the tram line, the reduction in council budgets, the council tax freeze, balancing books, filling black monetary holes and so on that heads have been down for too long. But it’s time that our city representatives stopped the naval gazing and began to think big once again.

Leadership was what was demanded throughout the last administration. And it’s still what’s required. Andrew Burns and Steve Cardownie’s coalition might well be changing the ethos of the council, of making it more accountable, more co-operative with the people it represents, but that doesn’t drive the city forward.

And while the Chamber of Commerce, tourist bodies, retailers and hoteliers sound the trumpets about how fantastic Edinburgh is, without a proper vision of where it’s going and what it’s going to offer its citizens and visitors alike, then they are just blowing into the wind.

Next year it could well be the case that the people of Scotland do vote yes in an independent referendum. Edinburgh will then be the capital of a new nation. Small-mindedness and narrow vision will not be what the rest of Scotland will expect then.

It’s not what the people of Edinburgh expect or deserve now. It’s time to hear the grand plan.

Tenets are inspiring

Courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and indomitable spirit.

Five very big phrases which contain even bigger ideas for a group of five and six-year-olds – including my daughter – to wrap their tongues and heads around. But they willingly recite them twice weekly at their taekwondo training sessions. Before they start the kicking and punching.

Who among us wouldn’t want to be able to say that they are the tenets by which we live our life? To have the self-control to be courteous to all, to have integrity and perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds, to have such an indomitable spirit even Chumbawumba would be jealous?

Martial arts have never really attracted me as a sport, but the benefits in terms of physical movement and their philosophy for life is near perfect – though attempting to practice it consistently in a world full of inconsistencies would make even Mr Miyagi become a tad more flappable.

It’s the emphasis on the spiritual and philosophical, in how to live your life, which seems to deeply affect the practitioners of Oriental martial arts. While we have to sign forms as parents pledging we will not abuse referees, other parents, supporters or even the players at my son’s football games, there is no such need at taekwondo because it would not even be countenanced.

But it’s the indomitable spirit part that really gets me. It’s what gets you through life’s slings and arrows. Just ask the family of Scottish judo sixth Dan Josh Gavin, who sadly passed away just over a week ago at just 46.

While judo’s tenets revolve more around mutual welfare and benefit, the father – who did much training in Edinburgh in his youth – showed just how indomitable his spirit was in his long battle with brain cancer. He opened his own dojo and coached youngsters, involving his whole family in the sport and its way of life.

Tragically they are now without him. But it’s hard to believe that his indomitable spirit won’t live on in them and the children he taught.