Edinburgh Council's SNP-led administration is so pathetic they can't even begin to deliver their own priorities – Iain Whyte
Edinburgh Council has a lot to worry about. A care crisis before winter has even started. Three red flags in a row from the auditors. Independent inquiries coming that are likely to make very uncomfortable reading. Dirtier streets than Glasgow with an epidemic of weeds and graffiti as a side order.
Despite this, the current SNP-led administration concentrates on expounding big vacuous strategies rather than improving vital services. Yet they are so inept they are even failing in the areas they have chosen as a priority.
A prime example is transport and the status of the council’s active travel projects, which are meant to get us all cycling and walking in future. Well, mostly just cycling.
These include major flagships like the “transformation” of George Street, a cycle link south along George IV Bridge to the Meadows and an east-west cycle link through the city centre.
There are many decent, local schemes. Not the Spaces for People temporary nonsense that looks like we are managing a major incident. Proper schemes, in theory well designed, and all consulted on with local people. Many requested by local communities and their councillors.
The spin from the SNP, Labour and particularly their Green allies was that a report to this month’s transport committee showed major “ambition” on active travel. That ambition must hide a lot.
In truth, the report was an update on a list of schemes from 2019 that, even then, was trying to cover for lack of delivery. It’s so “ambitious” that only six of 38 schemes could truly be described as new. These are mostly the minor ones and others have been scaled back.
Budgets and timescales are sometimes vague but 13 schemes are late with only three on time. Only two are on budget while 18 have rising costs. The big flagship schemes are all late and over budget. Final delivery of the programme now stretches out to 2026.
The impact on the ground is stark. Along with my ward colleagues and constituents, I have been calling for a pedestrian crossing between Inverleith Park and the Botanics for over ten years. I thought I’d achieved something when this made it into the 2017 Active Travel Programme. It had a budget, two designs and two public consultations. Construction was to be completed by March this year.
Instead, we have a temporary road narrowing but no crossing and this has created parking dangers for Blue Badge drivers. There is no timetable for a permanent scheme and the budget is now to be used to “develop an understanding of future investment requirements”.
The flagships are no better. In June, the vocal cycle campaigners were told to moderate their disappointment over the removal of temporary cycle lanes on George IV Bridge. Everything was fine because the council has a permanent design ready to proceed. What the cyclists weren’t told is that construction might not even start until 2024.
I have to conclude we are being led by a bunch of politicians so pathetic that they can’t even begin to deliver their own priorities. They certainly aren’t capable of dealing with the crisis issues emerging for the council. Whatever your national politics, for the sake of our city, please don’t put them back in power next May.
Councillor Iain Whyte is Conservative council group leader