Edinburgh's Spaces for People scheme: SNP revolutionaries are trying to impose their will on the city, despite what the public wants – Iain Whyte

On whose behalf is our SNP-led council seeking to govern? It is ever clearer that it’s happy to reject the views of Edinburgh’s residents when making decisions.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 4:55 am
Changes to Edinburgh's road layout under the Spaces for People scheme have proved controversial

Last week saw the release of the council’s consultation results on making Spaces for People schemes permanent. The public, and particularly businesses, were scathing. All but measures around schools were opposed.

The council’s answer seems to be to plough on regardless. They have come up with a cunning plan to ignore their own consultation with nearly 18,000 responses by publishing a survey of less than 600 people alongside. Why was this approach taken when it will have costs thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash on top of the consultation?

Did they know the public didn’t want their schemes? Were they sneaking a look at the responses halfway through and couldn’t thole the result? They certainly didn’t trust the public and businesses of Edinburgh to give them the answer they wanted.

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The spin started immediately with the alternative survey being said to be “more representative” and calling into question the consultation results.

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Will Edinburgh's controversial Spaces for People scheme become permanent? - your...

The truth is that both methods can easily be criticised. But the consultation response was huge for a council exercise, and this is the usual way the council gauges public views. One they claim we must all listen to when their contrived questions give the answer they want.

What was striking in the results are the obvious truths. We do all want to help active travel where we can, and we all want less congestion and to help the environment. But the way the council has gone about this has some damaging side effects.

The most disadvantaged by the changes are the disabled and those with limited mobility. Mainly because of an over-emphasis on cycling and closing roads. Businesses are extremely concerned about access for their customers and deliveries as they seek to recover post-pandemic.

Change should come at an acceptable pace that people can adjust to. Expected outcomes should be clear from the start. We should know the final design for Edinburgh’s traffic network and how different policies fit together. We should know how businesses, deliveries and tradespeople will be able to operate after any changes. We need to understand what kind of bus network we will have.

But all of this is ill-defined with this council because they want revolution rather than evolution. Their aims are hidden in a vast panoply of “strategies” aiming to radically change the city we know and love. The City Mobility Plan, the City Centre Transformation, City Vision, more Controlled Parking Zones, a low-emission zone, the tram extension and a new City Plan for development.

Even those who think they are doing the “right thing” and invest in an expensive electric car or van for their business could end up being surprised by the attitude of this SNP council whose approach is that any vehicle is bad.

As with all revolutionaries, they know what’s good for us and intend to impose it. Telling us in advance how much and how fast our lives would have to change to meet there aims would put us off.

Don’t let them dictate. The public will accept evolution but not revolution. It’s high time the council was made to listen.

Iain Whyte is leader of Edinburgh council’s Conservative group

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