In Edinburgh, we'll show we are far better than self-indulgent gesture politics - Robert Aldridge

Do they think our heads zip up the back? Both governments at Westminster and Holyrood have descended into ever more desperate distractions in a vain attempt to stop us focussing on their failures.

By Robert Aldridge
Monday, 20th June 2022, 12:30 pm

Like some particularly unedifying and warped version of ‘Back to the Future’, the Conservative government seems determined to bring back its glory days. It is ramping up conflict with trade unions to create a summer of discontent, with a series of strikes in the offing in a range of important services.

It is trying to re-run the Brexit debate by deliberately creating additional tension with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol (rather than admitting it did not get Brexit done, signed up to a flawed agreement and stopped negotiating with goodwill to find a solution).

It is appealing to the baser instincts of its more extreme supporters with its dangerous and heartless approach to asylum seekers. And in a nostalgic nod to John Major’s government, it is even bringing back ‘sleaze’ along with the ludicrous proposal to bring back imperial measures, which even people

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of my age can scarcely remember.

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Meanwhile in Holyrood, the SNP are involved in an equally ludicrous distraction exercise trying to get us all to relive their glory days of the 2014 independence referendum (which they lost convincingly).

Rather than keeping the focus on Scotland’s failing NHS, falling educational standards and the fiscal deficit they have created, they want us to pour our energy into creating more division in Scotland rather than uniting us.

Edinburgh councillors must collaborate more than ever at City Chambers to bring real change, writes Councillor Robert Aldrige.

Neither government is focusing on the important issue affecting millions of people across the country – the impact of the cost of living crisis on everyday lives. People are enduring intolerable stress just to keep their families fed and their basic housing costs paid.

It makes me furious that both governments seem intent on self indulgent nostalgia trips designed to shore up their core support and distract us from the difficult issues. Their energies should be focused on the big issues of today and tomorrow, not wallowing in the past.

Edinburgh Council also faces big challenges. At the elections in May, while Liberal Democrats were delighted that our numbers doubled thanks to the wisdom of the Edinburgh people, no party ‘won’ the election. Instead there are five parties all with substantial representation.

We too have a choice. Given that it takes three parties to agree to get a measure passed in the new council, Edinburgh could join the two governments and create chaos and instability. In my view that would be as self indulgent as Westminster as Holyrood.

The alternative is that we focus on the big issues, working together constructively to make real progress for the city and its citizens. We have a real opportunity to show how effective a positive multi party democracy can be.

I have always found that Edinburgh councillors, from whatever party, are passionate about improving the city. Through discussion, debate and goodwill we need to harness that energy and show that politics can be serious and make a difference to people’s lives, and that we are far better than the masters of distraction and gesture politics in our two governments.

Robert Aldridge is Lord Provost and Liberal Democrat councillor for Drum Brae/Gyle Ward