EDINBURGH’s newest city councillor has spoken out about being urged to join the SNP by The Proclaimers as he pledged to help support Leith Walk businesses through the tram works.
Rob Munn’s by-election campaign came to fruition in the early hours of Friday morning after he secured victory in the Leith Walk ward. This is his third stint on the authority.
The former Deputy Lord Provost was born in Canada before moving to Edinburgh from Fife to study – and he never left. Although Cllr Munn was inspired into politics in part by the Solidarity movement in Poland and “colourful” election campaigns in north east Fife in the 1970s, it was pressure from Craig Reid and Charles Reid from The Proclaimers that saw him join the SNP.
He said: “I actually shared a flat with Craig and Charles Reid of the Proclaimers for a bit – who I used to have quite lively political debates with.
“After the 1983 election, I came back in and they asked who I’d voted for. I told them I’d voted for the SNP. They both smiled and said, ‘so did we’. They were keen for me to join the SNP straight away but I didn’t want to jump straight in before they persuaded me.”
His election victory saw Labour candidate Nick Gardner demoted from second to third behind the Greens. Labour has traditionally secured strong support at the ballot box in the Leith area.
Cllr Munn said: “I would never have put this area down as Labour declining as much as it has. That’s despite people like Nick who’s known for his hard work – but there’s something wrong with the Labour brand.”
Following Drum Property Group’s proposals for Stead’s Place being unanimously rejected by councillors earlier this year, Cllr Munn is keen to give Leith Walk constituents more of a voice over planning issues while recognising that Airbnb-style short term lets are driving some people out of the city.
He said: “I understand why people are concerned they are not being heard to and I just hope the developers listen to what has been the very clear message from the community. It’s important to have that capacity in the community to take on the developers but we can’t just say, we don’t like it.
“Airbnb probably came up on the campaign more than the trams. People in tenements no longer have neighbours.
“It’s taking housing off the market and where do these people go? I can understand why some people are now saying they have to leave Edinburgh because they can no longer ~ afford to live here – but I do find that quite shocking.”
Cllr Munn said he is “broadly in favour” of the tram line to Newhaven – but wants to ensure local businesses and residents are supported through the disruption. Leith Walk will be reduced to one lane of traffic for up to 18 months during the construction.
He added: “On the campaign, the tram didn’t really come up as much as I thought it would. There were differing views as you might expect, but it went away.
“Speaking to businesses, they just want it to be far better managed than it was last time and I see that as the job of the councillors, to be that bridge between the council and the community. We need to make sure any problems that do arise are communicated properly.”