Helen Martin: I’ve lost faith in this councillor

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I’VE already had a pop at the council’s new 20mph speed limit policy, not because I have any objection to it per se, but because living on one of the Southside pilot roads, I can assure everyone, it doesn’t work.

But frustration at that was obliterated by my amazement at the rudeness and arrogance of Councillor Adam McVey, a baby-faced boy who has become deputy transport leader. Maybe he’s older than he looks, uses magic metro-man moisturiser and really has grown out of his student rail card, but he certainly hasn’t matured much.

With the city’s plans to introduce parking restrictions and charges on a Sunday steam-rolling on, he rejected churches’ pleas for a rethink, saying “This is a secular city. No religion has a hierarchy in terms of making representations and the effect that has on our policy making.”

Who the flippin ’eck does he think he is? And who decided this was a secular city? I don’t remember any public vote to that effect.

This is the home of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In the High Street is John Knox’s house. Bang in the centre of town is the Roman Catholic St Mary’s Cathedral. Along at the West End is the other St Mary’s Cathedral of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and that’s not to mention all the other churches round about the city, plus the mosque and the synagogue, who together fill many of the social, care and safety net needs of the populus which the council cannot meet. Historically, Edinburgh is a very religious city.

Today, most right-thinking folk, including those of no religion at all, would defend the rights of these congregations, especially the elderly, to attend worship and to park close to church as they always have done.

“Secular” doesn’t mean multi-faith or multi-cultural. It’s far more specific than that, meaning “not connected with spiritual or religious matters” or “not subject or bound by religious rule”. That may be true for some people and untrue for others including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs or Jedi. But neither means it is right for the city council to decide those of faith are not worthy of consideration.

Nor are we meant to be ruled by local councillors or parliamentary politicians, we are supposed to be “represented”. We elect them to serve and ditch them when we get fed up with them. That’s democracy.

If anyone is over-stretching their remit, it is not the churches, but one councillor who has taken it upon himself to declare the city “secular” and agrees with making it impossible or difficult for people to attend weekly worship. A better idea would be to extend the spirit of free Sunday parking to Saturday around the synagogue and Friday around the mosque. That would be representing the electorate, not thwarting them.

Childhood obesity inevitable with lifestyle changes

ONE more thing before I descend from the grumpy old woman soap box. Here’s a list of things that weren’t available, were too expensive or were only given as special treats, back in the day when no one in my class of more than 30 ten-year-olds could pinch an inch.

Fruit juice, fizzy drinks, crisps, after-school “snacks”, chocolate biscuits, burgers and chips, pizzas, “fat-free” products stuffed with sugar, sugar-free products stuffed with chemicals, flavoured yoghurts, corn chips, dips, popcorn, microwavable or oven-ready meals.

Chicken was an expensive Sunday roast. Sweets were once-weekly and bought from pocket money. Children weren’t generally welcome in adult restaurants and there were no kiddie alternatives such as McDonalds, Burger King, Nando’s or Pizza Hut. People didn’t eat between meals or “graze”, not least because food was comparatively expensive. Children were given water with school dinners and banished to the playground in all weathers after lunch and at playtime. They all walked to and from primary school.

Many didn’t have a TV, let alone screen games, or central heating, and providing it wasn’t raining or dark, they played outdoors, running around to keep warm if necessary.

I’m not saying it was Heaven. But we can hardly claim to be surprised today by childhood obesity.

High price of principles

ALMOST half of Scots want prescription charges back for those who can afford them, to help the NHS. But it may not be the “token” payment of old, and could even open the door to paying the true cost of the medicine. Careful what you wish for.