Kezia Dugdale: Drum boss out of step with Leith’s desires

Save Leith Walk campaigners at the City Chambers. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Save Leith Walk campaigners at the City Chambers. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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I see that my article here last week on the campaign to Save Leith Walk has struck a real nerve with the Drum Group, the developers behind the proposal, and in particular their chief, Graeme Bone.

He penned his own article to decry all the abuse and hyperbole around the campaign before accusing politicians of not knowing what they are talking about and talking up anti-social behaviour issues on the site.

READ MORE: Kezia Dugdale: Fight for Leith puts people before profit

He even went as far as to suggest that his plans were saving Leith from itself before appropriating the Hibees’ “persevere” as his own motto. Oh dear.

The problem for the developers is that they assume all Leithers are against development. That’s simple not the case. People are passionate about their community and its future, a point repeatedly demonstrated by projects like Leith Decides.

I notice he didn’t seem to challenge the fact that the developers are having to deploy staff to drum up support for the project on the streets while people queue up to sign the petition against it. Nor did he seek to address that the block is being run down not by the community, but by them – because they’d sooner put hoardings up than renew leases.

READ MORE: Graeme Bone: What are these protesters really ‘saving’ Leith from?

If this project gets the go-ahead, there is a huge job ahead for the developers to rebuild some goodwill in the community.

They can take all the pot shots they like at politicians like me – I’m paid to take it. But to suggest that they are saving Leith from itself by bringing their own student accommodation and hotel is a real insult to the folk who make Leith.

Silly games on tourist tax to buy support is no way for SNP to treat councils

This time last week, Nicola Sturgeon revealed her Programme for Government. That’s the speech where she announces the laws she hopes Parliament will consider and pass over the next 12 months. For Edinburgh, the programme was just as interesting for what was missing as what was contained within.

In a section about housing, Nicola Sturgeon told us all she wanted to ensure councils had all the necessary powers they needed to take action to address problems such as the rise in short-term lets.

Later on in the week I was able to ask the Housing Minister for more detail and while the government appears to be approaching this at the pace of a snail on work-to-rule, it’s clear Edinburgh will get the powers it’s asking for.

Tackling short-term lets though is not the only area where council chiefs have asked the Government for more levers. Despite widespread community support, the backing of council umbrella body Cosla, and the SNP leader of the city council, there was no similar announcement of tourist tax powers. Neither was there an explanation of why ministers are so dead against it.

I suspect a quiet deal has been done behind the scenes with the Greens – the party the SNP usually relies on to pass its budget of cuts to local services.

Watch this space, but I reckon this will be the Greens’ key demand for their votes. They’ll get it and all this silly game-playing means we’ll go another 12 months without the powers to invest more visitors’ money into the fabric of our fine city.