Kevin Buckle: We need a new Rumpole to make Royal High hotel inquiry riveting

The QC for the hotel developers has got Rumpole of the Bailey potential, so far not realised. Picture: PA
The QC for the hotel developers has got Rumpole of the Bailey potential, so far not realised. Picture: PA
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I’ve listened to the Royal High School public inquiry each day and listened is the key word here rather than watched. Having recently moved and emptied a loft and a container I have dozens of shop-related boxes to go through and some haven’t seen the light of day for over 20 years.

Currently, though, I’m mostly going through boxes from Avalanche’s time in the Grassmarket and it is a bit like panning for gold. There are lots of worthless compact discs and seven inches and then I come across a rare Kylie CD or a hard-to-find Arctic Monkeys promo and the searching becomes worthwhile.

Belle and Sebastian's vintage Disney toy is being sold for charity

Belle and Sebastian's vintage Disney toy is being sold for charity

Depending on what else I have to do I will listen live or on the recorded webcast and to be honest it has not exactly been riveting and certainly as a courtroom drama it wouldn’t get a second series. Basically it has mostly involved the two sides arguing about how the proposed new building will affect the views and whether the pictures produced to show how the new building will look are an accurate representation.

Unlike television drama the witnesses are questioned and generally asked to agree with things that don’t seem controversial and then just when you hope they’ve been tricked into some great admission they’ll be asked some bigger more important question and they will disagree, saying that is a matter of professional opinion, and then everybody moves on.

READ MORE: Battle lines drawn as £200k Old Royal High School inquiry begins

This was the story for all of the witnesses supporting the hotel and all we learned was lots of learned and professional people thought the hotel was great and that others disagreed.

Things didn’t get any better when the first council witness, their chief planning officer, appeared though hopes were raised when their next witness, the council landscape planner, agreed to remove some of her comments.

I should add by now that any humour so far that had surfaced had been very much the sort of banter you might expect between legal folk and it was clear none of those involved were moonlighting as stand-up comedians. Not for one second am I suggesting they should be cracking jokes, though the QC for the appellant, as the hotel developers are always called, does have potential as a new Rumpole of the Bailey if he could just be given a better script.

This is simply a selfish observation from somebody endlessly going through piles of uninteresting items that for some reason weren’t put in a skip some time ago but needing to stay alert for the occasional gold nugget.

Anyway it’s Thursday afternoon, I’ve finished packing up the online sales – including that rare Arctic Monkeys promo CD going to the Netherlands – and it is back to sorting through boxes.

Giving evidence is Euan McMeeken and I’ve missed what his position is. This isn’t helped by the webcast spelling his surname incorrectly as McMeekin. However I manage to establish he is a senior planning officer at the council.

The appellant’s QC, Gordon Steele, is doing his usual job of getting Mr McMeeken to agree with him as much as possible but is facing more suspicion than usual over each statement he makes. Mr Steele’s modus operandi is to make very particular points that the witness really has to agree with and bolsters the hotel’s case while the witnesses will normally try to widen the discussion so they have a reason to disagree.

So far in the day only one gold nugget had been found in an original copy of Simple Minds’ first album that not only has the picture inner bag but also has a nice A4 advert for the album and the Life In A Day single. It is part of the fantastic collection of vinyl I was given to sell a few months ago but it had been put aside as the album was already listed.

Back at the inquiry and Mr Steele is discussing with Mr McMeeken whether the gym block should be considered for demolition, describing the interior of the gymnasium as having been “hashed about a bit”. Mr McMeeken counters that it is not the interior that gives it value.

READ MORE: Kevin Buckle: What’s so bad about a packed Princes Street Gardens?

Mr Steele maintains it should be a consideration while Mr McMeeken adds that many school buildings are just functional internally. So far so good and any minute I expect them to just agree to disagree when finally we get the first genuinely funny moment in the hearing. Mr Steele says to Mr McMeeken “Well how many school buildings do you know have fully equipped cells in their basement.” Before he can answer Mr Steele continues “None that I’ve been to I’m glad to say.”

Mr McMeeken turns on his mike and immediately replies “I was going to say I’m from Dundee so quite a few.”

Hilarity ensues and Mr Steele knowing when he is beaten says “I think you win that one.”

I’m not claiming this is the funniest thing ever but believe me after weeks of listening to this inquiry it was a much-needed moment of light relief.

On a more serious note there has been nothing so far to show why the hotel won’t be allowed to go ahead. The hotel is of course in the driving seat so to speak, having a lengthy lease and only needing to prove it has done all it was asked to by the council and their planners.

So far they would appear to have been successful in that endeavour and it will be interesting to see how the economic arguments pan out in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile. that Arctic Monkeys CD may be sold but anybody looking for the Simple Minds album or indeed the rare Kylie promo which comes in a lovely glossy black envelope can find them on the Avalanche Discogs site along with many other gold nuggets!

The Tigermilk of human kindness

I got very excited when I saw that the vintage Disney toy from Belle and Sebastian’s Tigermilk album cover was for sale on eBay to raise money for the charity Hearing Dogs. It would have made an ideal exhibit for the ScotPop Music Exhibition Centre I’m working on.

By the time I looked it was already at £660 and I did think twice but the next time I went back it was at the unbelievable figure of £14,100. It does now seem to have stalled at that figure and by the time this column appears it will have just finished. I do hope the bids are genuine and maybe I can source an identical toy elsewhere or possibly persuade Disney to make more!

They forgot the Royal Mile

Last week it was the Just Eat hire bikes and this week Edinburgh Council have announced their commitment to electric vehicles.

Both of these initiatives are good things but there is a feeling that maybe the council could do with dealing with some of the more difficult day-to-day problems residents and businesses face also.

When I was looking for Euan McMeeken’s position in the council I stumbled across Shaping the Future of the Royal Mile from April 2013 as Euan was the contact. This involved three of those workshops the council love so much but that don’t seem to get followed through.

There is a huge irony in hearing the Royal High School inquiry talk endlessly about the views from every conceivable angle while the same concerned parties do nothing about the Royal Mile.