Edinburgh – is there anywhere in the world you’d rather live? – Adam McVey
The voice of residents will play a key role in realising the council’s ambitions for Edinburgh, writes Adam McVey.
The council administration has certainly started 2020 with a bang. All the progress we’ve made this year has taken months and in some cases years of hard work to develop.
Our “City Mobility Strategy” setting out plans for a more environmentally sustainable transport network for the next decade has won well deserved acclaim. Our “Choices” proposed city plan until 2030 has set out proposals for the city to build the homes needed while meeting our net-zero carbon obligations.
We’ve got confirmation from the Scottish Government that we’ve secured the powers we need to tackle to tackle short-term lets in the city. We’ve set out a £2.5bn plan to build new council houses and significantly invest in those existing council homes too.
We’ve published a strategy to bring the number of trees in Edinburgh to more than one million, a vast increase. And we’ve published a new tourism strategy, moving from generating growth to managing the impacts of our hugely successful tourist economy better with a focus on people, place and environment.
The challenges of better managing tourism, tackling housing affordability, keeping transport moving are all owed to our astounding success as a Capital.
Our economy is strong, so our housing market is overperforming leading to affordability issues. We’re an amazing place to visit, so tourists flock in their millions.
I hope I speak for everyone in Edinburgh when I say I’d much rather be working to deal with the challenges of growth and success than managing decline and failure that so many other cities unfortunately have to deal with.
Tourism and place management has understandably been the talk of the steamie. The recent poll showing support for the Quaich project in West Princes Street Gardens in a nutshell crystallises a number of the issues the city is currently grappling with.
In the recent poll published in the Evening News, the vast majority of residents viewed the scheme as a fantastic facility to significantly improve what was a great asset in its a day but in recent times has become increasingly tired and not fit for modern purposes. 74 per cent backed the design and it’s worth mentioning that the design was chosen from a number of options and agreed by a range of representatives from organisations across the city, including some of the heritage interest groups.
While this is certainly evidence of substantial support for the design, the 27 per cent expressing concerns about the model used to pay for it is also a significant proportion of the public.
This gives us a challenge as a city. Do we try to talk out our differences, accommodating legitimate concerns? Or do we plough ahead with majority rule? I said in November at our full council meeting that the city needs to embrace a conversation with itself on the future of some of the aspects of our winter festivals and wider issues we’re facing.
The SNP-Labour administration welcomes that conversation and will listen to all voices. I hope we’re all willing to listen to each other if we’re to make progress. We may not reach consensus as a city, but we can reach an understanding through discussion which will stand us in good stead for the next decade.
We need to keep the heid when discussing the plans I’ve mentioned on how our city moves forward. There isn’t a city in the world that isn’t dealing with significant challenges of one kind or another.
A good starting point for all of us to ask ourselves as we debate our future is “Is there anywhere in the world, I’d rather live?” For me, and I suspect for most of us, the answer is a resounding “no”.
Adam McVey is the leader of Edinburgh City Council