Nicola Sturgeon's popularity will rescue SNP in Edinburgh council elections – Steve Cardownie

After deciding to review the implementation of the council’s Spaces for People (SfP) programme and its potential impact on the forthcoming council elections, I reflected on previous columns as an ‘aide memoire’.

Tuesday, 28th December 2021, 4:45 pm
Nicola Sturgeon is likely to have more influence on the Edinburgh City Council elections than the performance of the SNP councillors (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon is likely to have more influence on the Edinburgh City Council elections than the performance of the SNP councillors (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)

Last January’s was devoted to the subject and in particular the council’s attitude towards consultation.

The council had recently endorsed a report by Paul Lawrence, director of place, which stated that the council would work “in collaboration” with local communities when implementing new traffic schemes.

But once such local community group had emerged which denied that any meaningful consultation had taken place at all.

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A spokesperson for South-West Edinburgh in Motion, Professor Derryck Reid, a keen cyclist, said: “The council has done a terrible job in communicating what is going on and is being misleading by saying that there is massive public support for the proposals.”

This theme continued throughout the year as residents complained that they were not being listened to and that if the results of a consultation exercise did not fit in with the council’s plans, they were effectively ignored.

On the same subject, I wrote in March that the council leader, Adam McVey, did not do himself any favours by attempting to link a criminal act, where a wire was strung across a cycle path in Newcraighall, with opposition to the Spaces for People programme.

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I wrote: “Many members of the Edinburgh public have concerns regarding the ‘Spaces for People’ programme and have a legitimate right to express them without fear of being accused of encouraging dangerous criminal acts such as trailing a wire across a path in an attempt to catch a cyclist by the neck. To suggest, as seems to be the case, that the perpetrator of this heinous crime has been inspired by the other side in a consultation exercise debases democracy and should be frowned upon.”

While some aspects of the programme have been welcomed and retained – such as the traffic measures introduced around schools – there is no doubt that this subject is a major factor in determining whether or not the council coalition actually respected the outcome of consultation exercises or ignored findings which did not conform to their pre-determined plans.

I, for one, am of the view that this matter was largely bungled and hastily implemented in a rush to spend the money provided by the Scottish government without giving adequate consideration to the implications of introducing a huge swathe of traffic measures throughout the city in one go.

But with council elections only a few months away, does any of this matter? I would suggest not – and for one very good reason – that the success or otherwise of parties in a local election is largely determined by their national standings and, unless totally catastrophic, local cock-ups do not affect the outcome to any great extent.

Suffice to say that the picture does not look too rosy for parties outwith the SNP.

Political polling by Opinium indicates that Nicola Sturgeon is the most trusted leader in Scotland, attracting a 53 per cent rating with Sir Keir Starmer a poor second on 37 per cent and Boris Johnson trailing on a derisory 18 per cent.

The SNP group on the city council can breathe easy. Nicola has come to the rescue.

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