Two Labour councillors rebel over Edinburgh's controversial traffic schemes

Road closures have been intended to make it easier for people to walk or cycleRoad closures have been intended to make it easier for people to walk or cycle
Road closures have been intended to make it easier for people to walk or cycle
Concerns over lack of consultation

THE Capital’s ruling SNP-Labour coalition suffered an embarrassment over its controversial traffic measures when two Labour councillors rebelled over lack of consultation.

Scott Arthur and Lezley Cameron both abstained rather than vote against a Tory motion which proposed emergency powers should no longer be used “to force substantial changes on communities where local people have expressed significant opposition”.

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Their move came after angry exchanges during a full council meeting, held by video conference, over several of the road schemes introduced as part of the council’s Covid response.

The motion, proposed by Tory Jason Rust, was still defeated by 31 votes to 25, but it is highly unusual for coalition councillors to abstain.

Councillor Arthur said people supported the idea behind the Spaces for People programme. “Where it’s failing is over implementation and transparency of decision-making.”

He gave the example of measures on Comiston Road The community councils and all the councillors from Morningside and Fairmilehead had met and agreed there should be a meeting of residents and a road safety audit before the scheme started. “That wasn’t about wrecking it, it was about allowing local residents to say how they thought it should be improved.” But a few days later the project went ahead without waiting and it led to the row over the disabled parking bay in the middle of the road.

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Cllr Arthur said he knew the couple they bay was for. “I felt ashamed of the way they had been treated, they are good people.”

Cllr Cameron said: “We missed an opportunity to engage properly and positively by not having a consultation at the start.”

Cllr Rust said people felt ignored by the council. “By the council’s own figures, from its limited public engagement, over 70 per cent of comments objected to the Comiston Road scheme, yet the usual outcome: ‘We note the comments but will implement anyway’. It seems the council is paying lip service to local residents - apart from the one person or organisation which requested the hugely unpopular closure of Braid Road.”

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said those criticising the administration ignored the fact it was the middle of a pandemic. “There is a need for a timely response. We don’t have the luxury of time.”

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She accused opposition councillors of “stirring up opposition” to the road schemes. She said the council had agreed early on the process that would be followed, which included consultation with emergency services, local access panels, ward councillors and community councils. And she insisted changes were made to schemes as they went on.

Cllr Macinnes said possible changes to the East Craigs low traffic neighbourhood scheme would be discussed at the transport committee on November 12.

“That is a clear demonstration by this administration of a willingness to change proposals to suit the needs of local communities”

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