John McLellan: ‘Tory Free’ for a very short time

Lord Provost Fran Ross apologised for the use of the words 'Tory-free'. Picture: Greg Macvean
Lord Provost Fran Ross apologised for the use of the words 'Tory-free'. Picture: Greg Macvean
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It seemed like a wonderful idea… an interactive word cloud so people can help paint a wonderful picture of the city’s wonderful future. And so a digital marketing gimmkck for the council’s 2050 Edinburgh City Vision website was born.

It’s the first thing you see, sitting proudly on the home page for the campaign to plan the city’s strategy for the next 30 years, an ever-changing, multi-coloured, non-political cornucopia of cosy inclusivity and kindness welcoming you to Edinburgh Still To Come.

To prevent this fluffy utopian dream being hijacked by mickey-takers, a file of trigger words was meant to block unhelpful contributions automatically, backed up by active moderation.

READ MORE: ‘Tory-free’ wish banned from Edinburgh 2050 word cloud after party complaint

But active moderation’s problem is it presumes approval, so amongst expected stuff like cleaner, friendly and inclusive, meat lovers might be worried to see Vegan in there and so too Conservative voters to see in bright orange letters “Tory free”.

Although left-wingers might wish it was otherwise, at the 2017 council elections the Conservatives were top for first preferences with 28 per cent and at the General Election a month later, some 61,000 Edinburgh people voted Conservative. So if Edinburgh is to be “Tory Free” that’s an awful lot of people to forcibly displace.

We were told it shouldn’t have happened, the line was removed, and Lord Provost Frank Ross apologised if it had caused any issues. If? Caused any issues? It’s certainly embarrassing for official, council-backed communications to suggest treating the biggest group of voters like Asians in Idi Amin’s Uganda, even briefly.

Gun dealer ricochets

As a member of the family behind the Studio One furniture shops, Edinburgh Southern MSP Daniel Johnson is to be congratulated for boosting another successful local business.

Of course that wasn’t the idea when Mr Johnson lambasted a sports gun dealer’s plans to operate from a shop 400 yards from South Morningside Primary, but PR agencies charge thousands for the publicity he generated.

With images of small noses pressed against the window to see the arsenal, no wonder First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was uncomfortable about a gun shop so close to a school, but the reality is there will be no display, not even a sign, so no big brass 12-bore above the door such as disappeared from above the Barbour shop on Frederick Street. All customers need an appointment, so passers-by wouldn’t know it was a gun shop had it not been for Mr Johnson.

Proprietor Ed Bewsher (who I know) is a police-approved trader and needs more space because the business has outgrown its current base… in Mr Johnson’s constituency a short walk from a school.

Murrayfield feuds

Concerns about the go-ahead for the mini Murrayfield stadium without referral to councillors remain, with Murrayfield Ice Rink management confused as to why the official report said their view was neutral when their submission clearly showed they had several objections. Planning committee councillors (of which I’m one) now expect a full report.

There are still doubts about the longer term, given the facilities look as temporary as they turned out to be at Myreside, but with Scottish Rugby, Murrayfield Wanderers, two opposing factions amongst Ice Rink shareholders and the Friends of Roseburn Park all at loggerheads, what could be one of the UK’s premier sports and recreation districts is instead home to international standard feuding.

Edinburgh Rugby’s chief executive Jonny Petrie isn’t waiting for the outcome and is taking charge at Ulster Rugby.

Conduct on display

This time next week we should be reflecting on a successful Bonfire Night in which people were able to enjoy displays and then went home safely and happily without worrying about their property or pets. As we all know, last year didn’t work out like that, and police have been forced to come up with military-style fast response units who can intervene if there are signs events are getting out of control. We all hope they are not needed.