‘Local election must be about local issues’

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THIRTEEN weeks from today local voters will decide which political parties get to run the city and the other Lothian councils for the next five years.

Of course, local authority elections generate just a fraction of the interest, drama and tension of the Westminster and Holyrood votes.

Pundits are already predicting that the turnout in May will be desperately low, given that this time around the local poll isn’t being held at the same time as a “bigger” election.

If those predictions turn out to be accurate it will be disappointing, given how important the council poll is to all of us.

It is councillors, after all, who oversee the services that affect us most from day to day, from the way local schools are run to the number of times our bins are collected.

So it will be incumbent on all parties to try to break through any apathy. Today we report an early attempt, with the local Labour Party’s budget plans for next year.

Pledges include £3 million for school repairs, public toilets and more money for Edinburgh Leisure. These are “mom and apple pie” issues and readers can expect to see similar promises when the Lib Dem/SNP administration reveals its own budget in the next few days.

But it is good that local politicians are preparing to campaign on such neighbourhood matters. We hope votes are cast accordingly, rather than on ultra vires issues such as independence or how popular or unpopular are national figures such as David Cameron, Ed Miliband or Alex Salmond.

In 91 days we will judge our local politicians on local issues (including trams, whether they like it or not).

Late loyal toast

You can’t escape the wonderful irony. As pub arguments rage across the country on whether Scotland should stay part of the United Kingdom, our head of state could be responsible for fuelling the debates into the wee small hours.

If the licensing trade gets its way, we will all be able to enjoy longer drinking hours to raise a glass to the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee – and the night before.

Quite whether HRH would approve of us marking the occasion in this way is unclear – as is whether there is really a demand to toast the monarch after normal closing time.

Clearly, this is a bit of opportunism on behalf of the pubs and clubs and, as a one-off, we see no problem with that.

It is the biggest party of the year and it is right that we should celebrate along with the rest of the country – sensibly of course.