Edinburgh Council leader Adam McVey's attempt to blame Spaces for People critics for cyclist wire trap is out of order – Iain Whyte
Often, we judge our politicians on those high-profile moments when they are under pressure in the public glare.
In debate, on TV or radio when they are being questioned and their abilities, character and resilience are on display for all to see.
Sometimes though, it is far more instructive to see how politicians behave in quieter and apparently less stressful moments.
Just over a week ago at 7.17am, the council’s SNP leader made an astonishing outburst on Twitter giving us a huge insight into his thought processes.
He causally linked a criminal act where a wire was strung across a cyclepath in Newcraighall with opposition to the council’s Spaces for People programme.
Worse, he talked of it as part of “a poisonous campaign”, and in a follow-up tweet accused Conservative councillors of “othering” people who cycled. He even suggested we hadn’t condemned this dangerous criminal act when Cllr Mark Brown, Conservative community safety spokesperson and a cyclist, had done so on Twitter.
If we take his argument to its logical conclusion what are the results?
Does he think that youths terrorising Lothian Buses staff and passengers are a politically driven guerrilla brigade of anti-public transport activists? Is their “opposition” to public transport somehow inspired by “Tory Scum”?
Was a brick thrown through a tram window because questions were raised about the over-inflated costs and timescale of the tram completion project to Newhaven?
The answer, of course, is no. These were acts of thuggery and matters for police investigation and action. Let him be in no doubt that Conservatives will always condemn law-breaking. Unlike his approach where he encourages law-breaking by far-left protest groups like Extinction Rebellion.
Let me set the record straight. No police officer has suggested a link for this thuggery to Spaces for People or any other aspect of politics.
Conservative councillors have supported many Spaces for People projects, opposed some where residents and businesses oppose them, and called for alterations to many others to make them acceptable to all. We have supported many cycling schemes but the fact we wanted more done for pedestrians than cyclists seems to be playing tricks on the mind of the council leader.
He doesn’t get that we don’t all insist on a one-sided view of every issue where anyone with a different view is “poisonous” and “must change”. So much for free speech, respectful debate and democracy.
What is exposed is that it’s not just Conservative councillors he has gone to war with – it’s thousands of Edinburgh citizens of many political persuasions.
Edinburgh people who have simply pointed out the flaws in the various Spaces for People schemes. People who have recognised and rejected the lack of consultation with local communities and businesses. People who, on the whole, would accept many schemes with changes so the results are ones that actually enhance safety and livability.
In recent times the council leader and others in his party and administration have called for an improvement in the tone of council debate. If he wants to change that, he should start by looking in the mirror. Stop the attacks that are below the position he holds and accept he’s meant to serve all the people of Edinburgh whether they agree with him or not.
Iain Whyte is leader of the council Conservative group