Brian Monteith: Alarmist politicians, not Brexit, are the real problem

Hardcore remain campaigners refuse to see that Brexit is an opportunity, not a problem. Picture: Scott Taylor
Hardcore remain campaigners refuse to see that Brexit is an opportunity, not a problem. Picture: Scott Taylor
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I want to believe that our council leaders mean well in setting up a special committee to ensure the country’s forthcoming departure from the European Union does not damage Edinburgh’s economy or threaten social harmony.

There is, however, scant hard evidence that there is yet a problem, just a fear that their own predictions and warnings, and those of other die-hard remainers, will come true.

Politicians love to be seen “doing something” and this is a good example of that. All their scaremongering has not yet manifested itself but that’s not going to stop them appearing to care by wearing their EU hearts on their sleeves, holding regular meetings, convening summits, launching consultations and hosting listening exercises.

Meanwhile our streets are full of litter, the city rubbish collection is a disgrace, the amount of gum on the ground resembles a pavement pox and the city’s potholes are legendary.

Will the same politicians do anything about these existing and highly visible problems? Silence. Utter silence.

Has a single EU national been sent home by a political decision yet? I’ve certainly not heard about it and I’m sure it would be front page news if it had happened.

Theresa May is wrong not to give EU nationals the reassurance they need, but it is the remainers that are talking up this issue and causing people to worry – I don’t know anyone that campaigned for leave that is asking for people already here to be forced to go home.

Nor is any politician on the Continent calling for ex-pat Brits to be sent home to the UK – something that could trigger retaliatory action here. Our alarmist politicians should be far more careful with their words. They are the problem – not Brexit.

The council committee should start by being honest with the public and admitting the sky has not yet fallen in, there has been no emergency recession budget, Poles and other EU nationals living and working here have not been sent home and foreign companies continue to make huge investments in the UK.

All of that gives a clue as to what they could really be doing that would be of real benefit to Edinburgh – seeing Brexit as an opportunity rather than a problem.

There is no shortage of good news stories about business investment confirming that Brexit can be made to work for our benefit. Contrary to all the gloomy predictions about foreign manufacturers being worried about being “outside” the EU there is an almost daily dose of announcements about new projects, with millions of pounds creating more jobs for everyone. Honda, for instance, is raising its investment in the UK because it sees Britain as the ideal place to increase production and target markets beyond the EU. Remainers were not predicting that!

Likewise Apple has announced a big investment at the Battersea Power Station which is a huge vote of confidence in London.

These positive stories, that are just a few of the many I could regale you with, suggest to me that what the Edinburgh establishment has its focus all wrong. Instead of fearing the worst and raising the anxieties of everyone needlessly what they should be doing is banging the drum for our city even louder than before, they should be shouting from the rooftops about how the city welcomes the Brexit challenge and is open for business.

With a far more competitive pound making investment here even more attractive and with the prospect of lighter regulation coming our way the city’s business leaders should be sniffing out the opportunities and contacting overseas companies to encourage them to do more deals here. Now that would be doing something worthy of applause.

Charity should begin at home

The UK must, by a law that David Cameron had passed, spend 0.7 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product on overseas aid.

It is generally held in the aid industry that the Department of International Development struggles to find enough meaningful and viable projects to spend its huge budget on.

Meanwhile In Scotland, just like the rest of the UK, we have food banks (pictured) and unmitigated poverty visible to our own eyes.

So why – when the UK government is already doing a good job – has the Scottish Government announced it will spend £10m in overseas aid? Surely it should be doing the day job and tackling poverty here in Scotland intead?

The power of positive thinking

I went down to the Tory conference in Birmingham – a city with thousands of migrants that voted for Brexit – and found there’s no sign of despondency there.

Birmingham is booming and resembles one big building site. Still it does not have some of Edinburgh’s advantages and this week we heard that we still have more Michelin star restaurants than Brum by a score of 4–0. When you add in our parks, palaces, castles, golf courses, schools and much more, Edinburgh should be swaggering about. But Birmingham and other English cities are far more confident and positive about their attractions.

Is there nobody that can be our ambassador, like London had Boris and New York had Bloomberg?

The X Factor’s magic has gone

I’ve been out too often lately to watch Strictly Come Dancing and I have never cared for the bakery thing but I have seen the ratings and noticed that Simon Cowell’s X Factor is bombing, despite trying to go back to basics.

Some programmes run their course and need to be quietly put down. That time has come for X Factor – there will always be a place for life-changing entertainment shows that discover new stars, but the X Factor formula is clearly tired. It’s time for a new concept hosted by more likeable people.