Edinburgh Council always wins in a game of consequences - Kevin Buckle
There is no doubt that many people are frustrated with Edinburgh Council in different ways and about different things but one thing that unites everybody is their annoyance with the lack of accountability.
Councillors of course often take the advice of council officials but the buck never seems to stop with anybody.
I first encountered this feeling very strongly when Avalanche moved to the Grassmarket after the pedestrianisation. Traders there had suffered a massive and lengthy disruption with the promise of the Grassmarket rivalling Covent Garden.
I always felt guilty as we moved after the works were finished and as such should have reaped the rewards without any of the cost but truth be told the council, having spent £8.5 million, then failed to back up all their promises.
Since then and after being asked to write this column I’ve paid more attention and in some cases been involved in projects and I can now vouch for the frustrations involved at first hand.
Sometimes the council simply fails to execute its own wishes as happened in King’s Stables Road and though the council has received far less cash than initially expected and the retail units all lie empty I don’t see anybody holding their hands up.
Similarly the Tron Kirk being saved by Edinburgh World Heritage didn’t end well much as many had predicted and even now things are not moving at the pace the latest saviours promised. Again nobody appears to be to blame.
Other times the council seems unable to see a bigger picture. Their officials will recommend whether an individual project should go ahead but the impact that might be borne by others is ignored and rarely even ever discussed when decisions are being made.
Long before Covid many were predicting the negative effect the St James Quarter would have on the city centre but they were seen simply as naysayers ignoring the huge numbers that would flock to the centre and then also shop further afield. Those newly empty shops as businesses moved would fill up in no time at all.
The number of empty shops now speaks for itself and I will be interested to see those promised figures showing the uplift in takings of other city centre shops.
Occasionally figures are produced that bear no relation to the real world as happens with the Christmas Market and despite the surrounding retailers saying they are losing out the council simply tells them they are mistaken.
This week it was agreed the Old Royal High School would become a music school without any consideration the decision might have on Scotland’s other music schools and in a similar way the proposed Dunard Centre was lauded by the council without any thought to the negative impact on other similar venues such as the Queen’s Hall.
The easy way out for the council is simply to claim everything is a success whether that be the dreadful Forever Edinburgh campaign or the flawed Open Streets initiative. If everything is wonderful no heads need to roll.
Of course things don’t always go to plan and reasonsble people will understand that but some acceptance that wrong decisions have been made from time to time wouldn’t go amiss rather than constantly adopting an “everything is fine” approach of which North Korea would be proud.