Theresa May placed her handbag at the side of her chair, straightened herself and looked directly into the cameras set up in the Scotland Office at Melville Crescent especially for the occasion. The Ides of March had passed and it was time.
“This evening I wanted to speak to everyone across the United Kingdom about how we journey together towards a successful departure from the European Union that benefits us all, delivering a new more progressive partnership with our European neighbours, and provides us with fresh global opportunities to help establish greater prosperity and harmony at home.
“Earlier this month in Malta I gave formal notice to the European Union that the United Kingdom was applying Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to initiate process of negotiating our new relationship. Over the next two years I shall report regularly to the House of Commons to explain the progress that we are making to reach a successful conclusion.
“During that period there will be moments when the exact arrangements are unclear, possibly even in dispute. We might be seeking to establish the fairest outcome for any financial obligations that we must honour or the cost of future partnerships that we will want to continue, such as educational exchanges or scientific research.
“It is because we shall not know the exact outcome of our detailed deliberations that my government has decided that the demand from the Scottish Government to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in the Autumn of 2018 cannot be met.
“I shall make it very clear, I am not saying No, not ever; I am simply saying, No, not now.
“The Scottish people continue to make clear their opposition to holding another independence referendum and Scottish businesses tell us the same, voicing their sincere and genuine concerns about the Scottish economy and the current risks to investment.
“It makes no sense to hold a referendum on Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom over its departure from the European Union when the costs and benefits of that change are not yet clear to the electorate. And it is reckless to put forward such a high-risk proposal when the terms of an independent Scotland joining the European Union are beyond knowing and cannot begin to be known until after the UK leaves the EU. Once we have a clear idea of what we have achieved in our negotiations, what the risks and opportunities are, I shall then be able to enter into discussions with the Scottish Government to discuss how an independence referendum might proceed. But until then I must protect the interests of everyone in the United Kingdom that we strike the best possible deal.”
The cameras faded out and the channel switched to another repeat of Floyd on Italy. It would not be the Prime Minister’s last speech on the subject but she had made it clear. There would be no independence referendum until after Brexit was delivered.
Bandstand has to be in tune with the castle
So the design competition to replace the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens has been launched.
Achieving a successful outcome will not be as easy as it might at first seem. The design of the Ross Bandstand has great merit. It is simple, has lovely horizontal lines that are evocative of the Thirties, when it was built, a period from which Edinburgh has few notable buildings remaining. Crucially, being so subtle, it does not jar against the most important view in Edinburgh – looking south across the gardens towards the castle.
Unfortunately it has been badly neglected by our council; its embarrassing disheveled state leading to it being branded, not unfairly, an “eyesore”. A revamp could greatly improve it and restore it to its former glory. Instead we may now end up with a bright, shiny metal and glass structure that screams out for attention and jars with the castle. If the new design can improve that inspiring view it will be an architectural triumph, so I reserve my judgement.
Just as important, however, is the landscaping treatment of the crumbling tarmacked arena that for decades has been nothing short of treacherous. There is a real opportunity to provide a proper amphitheatre that could make the space far more popular. Simply covering it in grass will not do. How safe and functional will the slope be in Edinburgh’s lashing rain, our sleet and our snow? Will it become standing-room only, best suited to the young, when for many people a seat would be appreciated?
Fortunately, if anyone can steer this project to a tasteful and beneficial outcome, Norman Springford, pictured, can. I wish him luck, he will need it.
Council hits speed bump over limit
There is no doubt that 20mph is a suitable speed in residential areas, but a one-speed-fits-all policy is a recipe for road rage and more, not fewer, traffic accidents.
The city needs arteries which allow traffic to flow at speeds suitable to the roads and conditions, with pedestrians given separation and safe places to cross.
The priority in spending should be to improve the safety of our roads and pavements that have been causing accidents in our city for decades. I recall one tragedy when a young boy was killed when his bike was stuck in an unrepaired rut that took him into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Rolling out the 20mph restrictions gradually was meant to allow an orderly and managed solution, yet Edinburgh City Council has again presided over an utter shambles.
When, in defence, transport convener Lesley Hinds uses the weasel words “planning” and “consultation”, you know this is a disaster in the making.