Martin Hannan: Positive spin is on wrong lines

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We’re a funny lot here in Edinburgh. Travelling in from the south to work in the city, I never cease to be amazed at the patience of those people who day in and day out find themselves trapped on the City Bypass.

I’m also fascinated by the fact that so many surveys find that people in 
Edinburgh are relatively happy with the state of the city as a place to live.

The latest was the city council’s own Edinburgh People Survey 2014 which found that the Capital continues to be “highly regarded as a place to live”, with 89 per cent expressing satisfaction.

The survey results were intriguing. Satisfaction with neighbourhoods as places to live remained high at 88 per cent, with 83 per cent feeling safe in their neighbourhood after dark – but that was before the introduction of these dratted LED street lights which are causing so many complaints.

I could hardly believe that 83 per cent of respondents are satisfied with public transport in the city, and that figure is up ten per cent on last year, which I suppose could be put down to the trams effect.

But look at the small print: the public’s view of road maintenance is “worsening” according to the survey, with the satisfaction level put at 48 per cent. I am flabbergasted they found so many people happy with the state of our roads.

Frankly, I am astonished that satisfaction with education remains high with scores of 72 per cent (nursery), 76 per cent (primary) and 77 per cent (secondary), and what makes this more surprising is that only council-run schools were considered. Mind you, a quarter of Edinburgh schoolchildren attend private schools, so no-one is going to admit they are unhappy with their kids’ school if they are paying through the nose for it.

I agree with the 72 per cent – only 72 per cent? – who believe that all our various festivals make Edinburgh a better place to live, and I am hugely pleased that 58 per cent of residents say they have attended a festival in the city over the past 12 months.

In announcing the survey’s findings last month, the council somehow neglected to tell us that the number of people who are satisfied with the way it is running the city had fallen by seven per cent in one year from 74 to 67 per cent.

Also, the council’s own “indicators” about life in the city tell a very different story from the positive spin it puts on things – of the 27 indicators, 23 were “below forecast” of the level of satisfaction, with only four “at forecast” and none better than forecast, which means the council is not meeting its own targets.

To be fair, it did admit that refuse collection satisfaction has fallen for a third consecutive year – from 86 to 62 per cent in that period – and recycling satisfaction had fallen for a second year running, from 84 to 65 per cent.

Street cleaning satisfaction was down a massive 25 per cent from 2013 to 2014, while dog fouling management satisfaction has fallen each year for the last five years, moving from 69 per cent in 2009 to 30 per cent in 2014.

The survey stated: “It is likely that perceptions of these environmental and community safety services are strongly influential in determining satisfaction with overall neighbourhood management.”

Too right. Issues like cleanliness and road maintenance affect people’s views of the city, and that’s what the council must fix.

Our city needs premier rivals

What an amazing last day of the regular football season we are facing in Edinburgh. Hibs need to beat Falkirk to gain second place in the Championship while champions Hearts face Rangers, and no matter what happens at Falkirk, if Hearts win then Hibs stay ahead of Rangers. Come on both clubs, let’s get the Edinburgh derby back in the top flight.

Mac a note of this fabulous foursome

Heard a brilliant a cappella singing quartet at the weekend. Their name is Mac4 and they are currently the silver medal holders for the UK and Netherlands Sweet Adelines competition that involves women-only barbershop quartets singing in harmony with no musical accompaniment.

The four women who make up Mac4 are all involved in choral singing in Edinburgh and Forth Valley, but come together as a foursome to create a unique and very classy sound.

They are going for this year’s Sweet Adelines contest in Nottingham quite soon, and I am confident they will come back with gold this year.


Warmest congratulations to Lord Provost Donald Wilson on his magnificent effort in completing the London Marathon having only taken up running two years ago. You are a star, sir.

Let’s know name of Seafield baby

On Friday, the body of an unknown six-week-old baby boy will be laid to rest following a funeral service at Seafield Crematorium. I intend to be there because I simply cannot accept that any child – indeed any human being in this city – should go to their grave unlamented.

We cannot understand, and only God knows, what caused the child’s mother to abandon her baby beside Seafield Cemetery almost two years ago. What really saddens me is that he must have lived long enough to gain a name. If the mother is reading this and wants to drop me a line anonymously here at the News, then I will make sure that his proper name is used on Friday.