Martin Hannan: People power is an education

Have your say

I am still amazed at the council decision to give a reprieve to Castlebrae High School. I backed the campaign to preserve Craigmillar’s secondary school, so all credit to the councillors who listened to the case for saving the ‘Brae and acted according to their consciences.

I never thought they had it in them. The arguments put forward by, among others, Councillor Mike Bridgman and the pupils of the school won the day for Castlebrae.

I am reliably informed that three pupils have returned to school since the reprieve was announced. That is proof that the campaigners were right to battle for the school, and kudos to them for their victory.

I can only echo my colleague Gina Davidson’s well-made remarks in her column last week that the ‘Brae has a bright future if the council gives it
full backing and the school works with the educational establishments around it.

It is to one of those schools to which we must turn our attention. The news that £1.5 million is to be spent this year on repairs to Portobello High School is truly shocking.

To put that figure in perspective, that expenditure is more than 20 per cent of the entire budget for upgrades at every other council school in Edinburgh – and this for a building which nobody wants to see continue in use.

The case for building a new school at Portobello Park has never been stronger, and though I am reluctant to do so because I always try to defend parks, the city can no longer go on shelling out money to shore up the dump that is Portobello High School.

I now believe that there is no other alternative site which makes sense, and I have already said that the argument that this land belongs to the Common Good holds no water in the face of local people’s wishes and the clear and unremitting requirement
to replace the high school as quickly as possible.

I genuinely fear for the safety of the children at Porty High, because any school needing £1.5m spent on it urgently is surely not a place that can be truly safe.

Need I remind you that the school has already lost its roof in the high winds, and pupils there have genuine fears of crush injuries as corridors are often full to bursting.

After the farce of the Common Good court cases, which ended in defeat for the council, the decision was taken to put a private bill to the Scottish Parliament to free up Portobello Park for the new high school, and that process is under way.

I have always maintained that if a genuinely democratic vote had taken place involving the entire population of Portobello and its environs then the school would even now be sitting in the park and the council would not be having to waste the people of Edinburgh’s money in throwing cash at a dilapidated and moribund building. The bill cannot go through the Scottish Parliament quickly enough.

To the masthead

SO, now we know the date of the referendum on independence, and if the Good Lord and the excellent editor of this publication spare me, I will have my say on the issues facing the people of Edinburgh and Scotland over the next 18 months, though definitely not, I may add, to the exclusion of the myriad other issues affecting people.

As regular readers know, I am a member of the SNP and always declare my allegiance whenever I write about political issues. I challenge every other columnist, commentator and political writer to do the same in the run-up to the referendum.

Those writers and commentators who have made up their minds and know how they are going to vote should make it clear at the outset in every column or article that they are a yes or no voter. Those who are undecided should also make that clear. Editors and authors of columns must also declare their political allegiances.

The debate on the Leveson and MacLeveson reports hardly mentioned the serious problem of bias in the media, which boils down to an issue of trust. By law, financial advisers are no longer able to call themselves independent if they only promote one product, so why should journalists and commentators be allowed to masquerade as neutral when they are not?

You may say that bias is obvious, and it usually is. So why, then, have national newspapers not formally declared their support for either the Yes campaign or Better Together?

In the run-up to general elections, papers fall over themselves to declare for one or other party, knowing it will not affect their sales. But with this industry in deep trouble and newspaper sales falling, and with the referendum set to be a lot closer than anyone thinks, could it be that proprietors and editors do not wish to risk offending one side or the other, for fear of losing sales?

If so, I think they are wrong. People will want to read every shade of opinion in this, the greatest of all political debates in Scottish history.

However, the people of Scotland will not forget or forgive a lack of integrity on the part of the media, so I say it is time for the Fourth Estate to say where it stands.