All good cults need a devil . . . and for cyclists it’s the car – Kevin Buckle

The Big Gold Dreams box set. Picture: Cherry Red Records
The Big Gold Dreams box set. Picture: Cherry Red Records
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The sniping between the cycling lobby and motorists means it is impossible to reach agreement on how many parking spaces are needed in the city centre, says Kevin Buckle

Every couple of months I hear the comment that in years to come allowing cars in city centres will seem unacceptable in the way cigarette smoking has become unacceptable in public places. While I’ve no doubt that attitudes have changed and will continue to change I’m sure cars will never be seen in the same light as the tobacco industry.

I should say at this point that I can’t drive. My family didn’t have a car and in particular my dad had a bus that easily took him to and from work. Similarly I got a bus to school, as did most pupils. Being dropped off by car was seen as quite unusual. My younger brother and sister did both learn to drive as did in their later years my mum and dad so really I have no excuse but I have never felt comfortable in cars.

Walking, buses and trains will get you most places and of course my wife drives so it wasn’t that we were carless – but funnily enough cycling has never appealed either. I’ve always known people who cycled either as a means of transport or just for pleasure but they all saw it as a hobby rather than a way of life.

However relatively recently cycling has become something of a cult, with people following with religious fervour. There are of course still many folk happy with the choice to cycle but without the need to convert others.

You can’t have a good religious cult without a devil and cars seem to have been given that role. Again much that is being suggested to reduce cars in the city centre makes a lot of sense and comes from a far broader church than just cyclists but it also comes with a superciliousness reminiscent of vegetarians many years ago.

There is a sense that motorists need to be punished or penalised, which of course doesn’t play well with many. The latest discussion is the parking tax and to some extent the rights and wrongs of it are lost in the rights and wrongs of who it should financially punish – employers or staff.

What all this means is there is no agreement on how many parking spaces are needed in the city centre, be that in places like George Street or in the car parks. Maybe surprisingly given what I’ve said so far this is a concern for me. I won’t go over the mess Edinburgh Council made over the sale of their land at the top of King’s Stables Road but there was a “part two” to the plans and that was the redevelopment of the car park that makes up the other half of the long winding road.

The lease on the car park ends next April and seemingly it is in a poor state so leaving things as they are should not be an option, whatever the plans. Some time ago I was told the car park would move and the area would add to the planned arts and culture hub. Now it appears there is no other place to move to so a scaling back is a more viable option.

Many of the ideas abandoned by the council for the previous site could still be applied to the car park and other things like purpose-built indoor markets have been mentioned.

Encouraging footfall has been a priority for over a decade so redevelopment of the car park is essential and it is just a case of deciding how much of the space is allocated to a new car park and then what other facilities and attractions can be added.

Imagine my dismay when I heard that the council were thinking of delaying any decision and just keeping the car park for a couple more years. I wouldn’t claim it is a simple decision what to do with the space but to delay things when the opportunity is there to push forward is completely unacceptable.

I’m hopeful after my input that the City Centre Transformation plan will recommend the improvements needed to King’s Stables Road but not so sure as to whether it will make clear the urgency of the matter.

Both sides in this argument are not equally committed. Most folk just want to use their cars in the city centre when they want to while those who want to limit and discourage such practice are relentless in their opinions and campaigning.

I totally support any initiative that reduces traffic in the city centre but a better balance is needed in achieving that.

Big gold box is a musical treasure chest

Out this week is Big Gold Dreams a five CD box set from Cherry Red that has had great reviews and deservedly so. Documenting the independent music scene that emerged in Scotland in the late 70s and early 80s and continuing through to the end of the decade it constantly reminds those of us who were around at the time of just how many good bands there were.

For those who maybe weren’t even born at this time it is a perfect starting point for discovering bands from that era and, believe it or not, there are even more good bands that didn’t make the box set.

While it makes the perfect birthday present for kids to give their mum or dad it really is worth those of all ages investigating and bands in particular might want to examine their heritage.

Also out this week is a new album from James Yorkston – The Route to the Harmonium. The album was almost entirely recorded by James himself, in the small Scottish fishing village of Cellardyke, where he lives.

Out on Domino Records, a great example of an English label supporting many Scottish artists, there is the now the obligatory coloured vinyl only available from independent record shops.

In this case the colour is green and you won’t find it in HMV and FOPP, though now with Sunrise’s Doug Putman at the helm it will be interesting to see how long this sort of thing continues. Maybe they will get their own colour!