Edinburgh Council elections: Edinburgh is one of world's best cities. Next week's vote is about making it even better – Donald Anderson

Sadly, council elections are largely decided on national issues. The fate of candidates next week will likely be determined by voters’ views of Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon rather than on the competing visions for Edinburgh.

By Donald Anderson
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 4:55 am
Voters in Edinburgh's council election should think about how to improve the city when casting their ballot (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Voters in Edinburgh's council election should think about how to improve the city when casting their ballot (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

But those local issues matter, so what are the big issues facing Edinburgh and the new council being elected?

In the last decade Edinburgh’s population grew by over 12 per cent. That brought challenges to the city but huge benefits as well. All those extra workers help keep businesses successful and their wages help support more businesses and jobs.

But looking forward, population growth will be slower than before. Between 2020 and 2043 the population is expected to grow by ten per cet. These figures reveal that, despite many such predictions, Edinburgh will not overtake Glasgow in population.

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The figures do show however that Edinburgh needs more houses. Post-Covid, the shortage of housing supply has seen crazy house price increases. Where those houses are built will be a huge challenge, but the combination of more people overall and more people demanding more space in their homes means that housing pressures will not ease.

An increasing population needs improved public transport. Edinburgh has the cheapest public transport in the UK – a triumph of public policy and the success of Lothian Buses.

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But buses can’t transport people as quickly or efficiently as trams and trains. The change of heart at the Scottish Government on trams is to be welcomed, but it’s cash rather than warm words that are needed. I understand the desire for a congestion charge, but it’s not easy. The issue will no doubt be fiercely debated after next week.

Our city centre needs to be supported and recent major investment in Princes Street and elsewhere should give us grounds for confidence that supporting further investment is the way to see the city centre bounce back better.

Other key issues are environmental. We all want to see the carbon dioxide reductions that will tackle climate change.

Then there’s litter. Litter is an all-too-common feature of a walk around Edinburgh. It’s always high on residents’ priorities and for good reasons. I do think that fines need to play a role.

Having done community clear-ups in Edinburgh for 40 years, the stupidity and selfishness of some residents still shocks me. Fines can help deter offenders in a way that little else does. The more the better in my book.

Our built environment is in better shape than for over 100 years. Recent evidence demonstrated that historic buildings in the city centre have largely been saved. The task will be to keep them that way and tackle the (still) many historic buildings around the city that need investment.

Lastly our wonderful parks will need looking after, and a growing population will need more and better green space. Planning green spaces is every bit as important as planning buildings and communities.

None of it’s easy. I have every sympathy for the politicians standing for election next week. They have over 500,000 bosses and sometimes as many different views to try and reflect.

I firmly believe that Edinburgh is the best city in Britain and one of the best in the world. A week tomorrow, voters will choose who they want to make it ever better.

Donald Anderson is director of Playfair Scotland and former leader of the City of Edinburgh Council