Steve Cardownie: Being provost isn’t a job, it’s a way of life

Pic Greg Macvean - 07/06/2017 - Volunteer Lily Cook who has won Volunteer of the Year award.  She is pictured ahead of the presentation at City Chambers with Edward Hibbert (a trustee at Volunteer Edinburgh, left) and Lord Provost Frank Ross (right)
Pic Greg Macvean - 07/06/2017 - Volunteer Lily Cook who has won Volunteer of the Year award. She is pictured ahead of the presentation at City Chambers with Edward Hibbert (a trustee at Volunteer Edinburgh, left) and Lord Provost Frank Ross (right)
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Having been an elected councillor in Edinburgh for 29 years from 1988 to 2017 and during that time being elected as Deputy to the Lord Provost on two occasions, it was clear to me that the work of the Lord Provost’s Office was not fully understood by many people both within and without the City Chambers.

I substituted for the Lord Provost on countless occasions when they were otherwise engaged and it was indeed a great honour to represent such a fantastic city as Edinburgh. Visitors from foreign parts from both the public and private sector were genuinely impressed by our historic city and its role in the “modern” world.

But although the Lord Provost plays an important part in Edinburgh’s civic society and is in demand to open and attend local and international events, there is much more to the role than that.

With the City of Edinburgh Council being in recess at the present time, I took the opportunity to catch up with Councillor Frank Ross, the newly elected Lord Provost, to ask him how his first few weeks in office had gone.

Frank was elected to the post on May 18 this year and quickly realised that being Edinburgh’s First Citizen was not so much a full-time job as a way of life.

The Lord Provost holds positions such as Trustee, Patron and Honorary President of 98 separate organisations, ranging from The Balerno Village Trust to The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

This is in addition to his Royal duties as Lord Lieutenant.

He hosts many visiting dignitaries to the City during any given year, but particularly during our world-renowned festivals.

In the last seven weeks, he has met a significant number of ambassadors, consuls and consul generals spanning the globe and has received 18 offers to visit from 12 different countries, including the USA, Armenia, China and Japan.

Any foreign engagement has to have the approval of the council, which would want to see what benefits the city might receive from such visits, with particular attention being paid to the city’s ongoing economic strategy of attracting inward 
investment, a key element of which is job creation.

Frank was also honoured to be elected Veterans Champion, which he says will give him “the opportunity to push the core for those brave men and women who have fought for our country and for those relatives whose partners made the ultimate sacrifice”.

And he has also taken on the responsibility “for delivering the 2050 Vision Project which aims to capture the aspirations of the many stakeholders in the city, not least today’s youth and mould it into a series of strategies which will deliver a capital city where homelessness and poverty are a thing of the past”.

He has no charitable event participation lined up yet but has managed to get the Winter Festival to contribute 50p for every torch sold for the torchlight procession to the One City Trust, which should amount to £10,000 per year.

And as well as chairing the Full Council Meeting which takes place every month (apart from recess), Frank is still a ward councillor available to his local constituents.

All told, it has been a busy few weeks for the Lord Provost and does not promise to get any less so in the future, but given the role is not confined to civic duties but is a vital component in the overall administration of the city, it is crucial the Lord Provost has the skill set to move it forward for the benefit of our citizens.

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The 26.27 carat diamond is thought to have been cut in the 19th century, but its history is not known.

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If he is successful and is elected to the position that he covets so much, it is a scary thought that he and Donald Trump, his counterpart “across the pond”, will have such an influence on world events.