Martin Hannan: Deal me in for city investment

0
Have your say

It is a huge irony that the best chance Edinburgh has been given in years to really prosper and grow a bright future is down to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government at Westminster.

There is no question that its City Deal scheme will make a fundamental difference for the better if Edinburgh City Council and its neighbours seize the opportunity that is being offered.

Last Thursday, the economy committee of the council considered a report which laid out the case for a City Deal for the Edinburgh City Region – that will probably end up comprising the Capital, Fife, the Borders and the other three Lothians councils.

The report stated baldly: “Edinburgh City Region could benefit significantly from an Infrastructure Fund/City Deal arrangement with the UK and Scottish Government. An opportunity exists to develop a business case built around the region as a ‘Gateway to new investment in Scotland’.”

Glasgow already has its deal and we have been slow off the mark, but we can still catch up, especially as the report made it clear that improvements to transport, creating strategic development areas, and supporting key industries across the City Region would be massively beneficial to Edinburgh and surrounding areas.

Normally I get very sceptical about reports such as these, especially when they are asking for £25,000 of council tax payers’ money to take matters forward, but this report was different – it made a lot of sense. In this case, the money would be spent on getting formal arrangements with the other councils I have mentioned and taking forward a bid for a City Deal. It could work, you know.

So this time, I say spend the cash and go for the prize. The chance to get £1 billion to fix the creaking infrastructure in and around Edinburgh is just too good to ignore, and while £25k could be put to good use, it’s relatively small change compared with the opportunity to win 40,000 times that amount.

Edinburgh at the centre of a City Region with a vastly improved infrastructure just makes so much sense. A great many people like myself already live just outside the city, but commute on a daily basis to work here, therefore we are used to seeing Edinburgh at the heart of a region. I gather there are some people in other councils who need to be convinced that the City Region concept will work for them – of course it will, if people approach the idea positively.

Unfortunately, there’s a strict time limit – the bid document would really need to be finalised by February in advance of the Budget, and as there’s no guarantee that the coalition government will survive beyond May, there really needs to be a concerted effort and campaign by all parties in all these areas to get the City Deal delivered.

Which brings me neatly to Jim Murphy, the new Scottish Labour leader. I think it is incumbent on branch manager Murphy, below, and his boss at head office, Ed Miliband, to declare that if Edinburgh wins a City Deal from the coalition government, the Labour Party will support it at Westminster and Holyrood.

City Deals may be a coalition creation, but Labour should realise that they could work for Edinburgh and elsewhere and the policy should continue if Labour gains power next May.

Royal rip-off is making me parking mad

Who are the biggest baddies in town this Christmas? I vote Consort, the disgusting mob which is stinging the people of Edinburgh with its contract to run the Royal Infirmary.

Last week’s story of how the family of Joyce Walkingshaw, above, had to shell out £700 to visit her in the ERI made my blood boil.

Even though she has a blue badge, her relatives had to pay for parking because there’s not enough disabled spaces at the moment.

It’s time for the Scottish Government to end the scandal of the unjust, unfair and downright awful Consort parking charges. Discharge these private rip-off merchants now.

Let’s get C.diff under control

I hail from the Vale of Leven on the west coast, and I know people who lost relatives in the C.diff outbreak at the local hospital.

Given their horrific ordeal, let’s pray that the cluster of C.diff cases at the Royal Infirmary can be contained. The possibility of it spreading is too awful to contemplate.

RUFF WITH SMOOTH

We have been the happy but frequently exasperated owners of Hamish, our Jack Russell terrier, for a year and have learned one thing – you don’t ‘own’ a dog, they possess you.

The true meaning of Christmas lives on

The one time of the year when you don’t hear from militant atheists is Christmas.

By any logic, they should be running a campaign to ban Christmas but they are not that stupid – they would be run out of town if they tried that on a populace that loves the feast.

Even though it’s heavily secularised, it’s still at heart the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, yet this year more than ever I got the feeling that the Good Lord’s nativity is just an excuse for excess consumption.

Then I saw the queue to get into our local kirk’s carol service, and realised that, for a great many people, it’s Christ-mas again. Amen to that.