‘It’s a historic moment for the Capital’

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Today we say a big “ni hao” to Edinburgh’s newest residents – giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang.

Their long-awaited arrival from China was rightly celebrated in style yesterday, giving us just a hint of the panda-monium to follow.

The debate over keeping such animals in captivity will always be there, but the immense value of this historic deal to the Capital cannot be underestimated and everyone involved in making it happen deserves praise.

Visitor numbers at the zoo will soar – perhaps by as much as 70 percent in the first year . . . and just think of the explosion in tourists if a cub is produced. This will all help generate millions more for the wider city economy, much more than either the large cost of “renting” the pandas and their bumper bamboo bill.

The zoo itself should view this milestone as a turning point. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has not had its troubles to seek over the last year with infighting, suspensions of key staff, the resignation of its chairman, and a huge drop in visitor numbers and income.

Interim chief executive Hugh Roberts has steadied the ship, but his temporary contract expires next year. We must be sure that efforts are made to put the right person in place to take the zoo and its development plans forward in the long term.

As the paint dries on the sparkling new £250,000 panda enclosure, we also need to be reassured that the underlying issues at the zoo have not simply been brushed over.

The zoo is vitally important to Edinburgh’s economy and the arrival of Tian Tian and Yang Guang will ensure it continues to be for years, if not decades, to come. So as we welcome the pandas today, let’s also hope the city can take full advantage of our new star attractions.

Everybody needs...

it’s an oft-heard refrain that there’s little or no community spirit any more.

And that’s especially true at this time of year, when we too readily indulge in nostalgic memories of halcyon days in which neighbours came together to help out at Christmas and to celebrate Hogmanay.

So it is heartwarming to hear that the good folk of Orchard Bank are still guid nychburris, who look out for each other every day and will this year come together to enjoy their 30th annual festive party.

Residents say that life there is so pleasant that people rarely move out of the area. In fact, they claim it is the friendliest street in the Capital . . unless you know better, of course.

Let us know if you do.