Martin Hannan: My deep love for this city will remain

Picture: Sean Bell
Picture: Sean Bell
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FOR as long as I can remember I have loved Edinburgh. As a boy growing up near Loch Lomond, I knew that Scotland had beautiful places, but I never knew that my nation had a cityscape as gorgeous as Edinburgh until, like so many children down the ages, I came here on a school bus trip to visit the zoo and the Castle.

I can still visualise my ten-year-old self, staring goggle-eyed through the bus window as we made our way along Princes Street, the Castle on its rock like something out of a fairy tale.

We are all just temporary custodians of a fabulous entity and we should be cautious about what we do with it

By a circuitous route, some 16 years later I came here to work at promoting the city for the old district council’s public relations and tourism department. By then I had visited the city many times, mostly on rugby duty, and had discovered the wonders of the nectar sold at The Diggers and much else besides. I worked with good men, my boss and mentor Andrew Fyall, Brian Maguire, and the late John McGhee and Bill Rae, all of whom communicated their passion for Edinburgh.

In The Hebrides and the Jinglin’ Geordie, journalists, councillors and similar riff-raff discussed the issues of the day, and sometimes drink was taken, would you believe. I remember how, no matter their politics or point of view, they all loved Edinburgh.

I was privileged to work for three great Lord Provosts – the late Dr John McKay, and Eleanor McLaughlin and Norman Irons, both of them thankfully still with us. Believe me, they all gave their hearts and souls to the city. I like to think that I and several thousand colleagues did our bit, too.

On getting married, we made our home here and we raised our two children here, both of whom received a superb local education at all levels, provided by the state as it should be.

Working eventually for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Evening News, I found myself labouring alongside excellent professional journalists. Their number is greatly reduced, but that has been the way of our industry for so long.

For the News I have given my thoughts every week on issues ranging from global warming to potholes – these days in Edinburgh we don’t drive on the left of the road as much as on what’s left of the road.

In the course of some 300,000 words over the past seven years, I have written about politics, local and national, and never once has an editor changed a word.

I am proud of the fact that whenever I have written about politics, I have disclosed my membership of the SNP – once again, I repeat my call for all political columnists, editors and reporters to openly state their political adherence. For that matter, no anonymity should be allowed on the internet – then trolling would cease instantly.

It has been immensely pleasing to record the rise of my party to prominence, and though the Yes side lost the referendum, I think we will win the next one. I only hope I live long enough to see an independent Scotland.

I have stated my views on all the main local controversies and sometimes people have actually read them and agreed or disagreed with me. My one abiding point has been the lack of vision shown by so many of the so-called leaders of this city. Maybe, just maybe, the advent of the City Deal may correct that.

For what it’s worth, my own view of Edinburgh’s future is that we are all just temporary custodians of a fabulous entity and we should be cautious about what we do with it. Yes, there must be progress, but it must be planned and not at the cost of degrading the extraordinary built heritage bequeathed to us by previous generations.

One day there will be an end to the inequality which is the real scourge of Edinburgh. No child from Wester Hailes, Craigmillar or anywhere should grow up disadvantaged simply by accident of birth.

We must encourage the industries and the research and development that makes this city such a world leader in so many ways, and at the same time improve the health and quality of life of our citizens. For it is the people of Edinburgh above all who make this city what is.

The point of all the above is to say in a roundabout way that this is my last column for the News. Times change, we all move on, and this is the moment for me to embark on other projects.

I no longer live in the Capital and my workplace has moved, so I don’t feel the ownership of the city that I once did, and you can’t really moan about the council if you are not paying council tax or rates here.

To anyone I have inadvertently offended, please accept my sincere apologies. To any others I have offended, be assured it was nothing personal.

Above all, please believe that every word I wrote about this city was done out of my deep and abiding love for this wonderful, maddening, astounding and magical place.

Edinburgh and Scotland forever!