John McLellan: Here’s why our city’s not so ah-mayzahn’

What would comedian Greg McHugh's creation Gary Tank Commander think of Edinburgh?
What would comedian Greg McHugh's creation Gary Tank Commander think of Edinburgh?
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Ah-may-zahn’ . . ! You can almost hear Gary Tank Commander saying it. “Edinburgh, ken, it’s an ah-may-zahn’ place, even beh-ur than, ken, Dalgeh-ie Beh.”

But forget comedian Greg McHugh’s alter ego, our very own Adam Council Commander McVey this week not so much extolled the virtues of the city, but of his administration. “The last 18 months in office have involved a great deal of hard work but this year will see us building on those efforts and delivering for our amazing city,” he gushed in an article for for Monday’s Evening News.

In fairness, most politicians accentuate their positives and ignore the negatives, but even so his latest epistle was notable for its almost complete failure to acknowledge any of the difficulties the city faces, whether self-inflicted or not. Not even Brexit, and oddly the only recognition of a problem was a growing (as it were) reputation for cutting down trees. Understandable, he said, but inaccurate, even though in the court of public opinion chopping down mighty elms and replacing them with saplings roasts no chestnuts.

Heading his report card was signing off the £1.1bn Edinburgh City Region Deal, an achievement indeed as it involves collaboration with all the South-East Scotland Councils, the universities and £300m investment each from the Scottish Government and, er, the UK Government. It’s been years in the preparation so hardly all his own work.

Then there is the school replacement programme, ripped up last year after a passionate parental campaign to save Currie High and the WHEC, but apparently that’s all fine now even though future education provision in West Edinburgh is in such disarray that the Scottish Government has taken the unprecedented step of temporarily blocking planning deals.

And listen up you miserable lot, Edinburgh should be grateful to the administration for its determination to complete the tram line to Newhaven. “This year can be looked back on as one in which we took decisions for future generations – they’ll thank us for it,” he wrote, not for a minute pre-judging the outcome of the delayed final decision.

Finally there was the housing programme, and we are assured the building of affordable homes will accelerate so the number of completions will “soar to near-record levels”. Maybe it will, but what does “near-record” actually mean?

And that’s pretty much it, apart from an oblique catch-all reference to “obvious challenges”, so obvious there was no reference to the small matter of the budget crisis the administration faces thanks to the cash crush from the SNP at Holyrood. You can bet your last bus pass that if an extra £10m of cuts on top of the £28m expected had been caused by Westminster the blue face-paint would have been out.

Nor was there any mention of the chaos in the bins system which this week resulted in a woman dumping her rubbish at the Council’s Drum Brae Hub. The new survey which shows Edinburgh has more potholes per kilometre of road than any other authority in Britain? The shambles which is the amalgamation of Council and NHS care services? Best keep schtum. The tourism tax was only referred to indirectly as “better-managing” tourism, despite it being a key policy and the predictably favourable result of the council’s consultation released on Tuesday which the leadership would have known about. Could this possibly be because the Scottish Government has hit the transient visitor levy into the longest possible grass?

The problem with all the great things being claimed for the year ahead is most of them aren’t going to happen any time soon; the new schools won’t be built, no new tram stops till 2022 at the earliest, the Impact auditorium is years away, the house-building programme will still be 18,000 short of the administration’s target and even new Meadowbank won’t open until the middle of 2020.

With no-deal Brexit more likely by the day, 2019 is shaping up to be anything but ah-may-zahn’.