Car-free Edinburgh city centre backed by 66%? Might be time for a public consultation on consultation exercises! – Steve Cardownie

A consultation exercise carried out by the City of Edinburgh Council found that there was 66 per cent support for its plans to make the city centre virtually car-free.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 12:30 pm
An artist's impression of plans to turn George Street into a European-style boulevard would see cars virtually banned (Picture: City of Edinburgh Council/PA Wire)

The plans include extending the tram network, developing four more park-and-ride interchanges, a strategic network of cycle and walking routes along with seamless pricing, ticketing and accessibility which would allow passengers to move between buses and trams.

This 66 per cent figure prompted Councillor Lesley Macinnes, transport convener, to announce that the results were “extremely encouraging” and may be seen by some as an emphatic endorsement of the council’s vision. But before rushing to see this figure as a vindication of the way forward, a pause may be required.

Out of the total population of Edinburgh of around 500,000, only 1,355 responses were recorded from members of the public with a further 19 from key agencies and a further 138 from other stakeholders, which can hardly be construed as a robust, representative sample.

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This, of course, is not the fault of Councillor Macinnes who can only work with the numbers she is presented with. However, there must surely be questions asked regarding the low participation rate, given the important nature of the issue.

Is this just another manifestation of public apathy or could it be a sign of public mistrust of such consultation exercises? Or is it that the silent majority are in favour of the plans but did not bother to record their views?

Local politicians will look for a reason that best suits their agenda but perhaps what is needed is a consultation exercise on why people do not participate in consultation exercises!

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