A population boom just as Edinburgh goes bust '“ Helen Martin
RIGHT now, planning for the future is about as reliable as spinning a wheel of fortune. With no way of accurately predicting the end of the Brexit saga, who knows where and how we'll end up in five years?
Yet in 25 years, according to former SNP MSP and economist Andrew Wilson who was speaking at the Edinburgh Dialogues seminar and discussing Edinburgh as a post-Brexit international city, our population is likely to double.
To help facilitate that, he feels the Capital needs to have a mayor, and needs to “shout over and over again” about what a wonderful place it is to live, work and bring up kids.
Certainly, several surveys seem to put Edinburgh high up the league of good places to live, although that is rarely backed up by locals’ comments online or carried in our letters page.
At the moment we have so many downsides. The council budget shortage has steadily grown within six months from £28 million a year to £47m, resulting in massive service cuts with the latest including a drop of community police officers in the city, along with a plan for qualified teachers and head teachers to be removed from nursery schools.
And along with the £776m cost of our existing tram system plus £200m it costs in loan repayments, it’s been strongly rumoured that the extension to Newhaven will go ahead at a cost of £165mn.
So, the council finances are (for several reasons including, as councillors claim, government cuts) in a mess. Edinburgh property prices are the highest in Scotland and it’s an expensive city in which to live in general, increasingly so with essential service cuts and charges.
YouGov research says 12 per cent of people in Scotland are struggling to pay rent or mortgage, so it would seem logical that figure is even higher in Edinburgh.
And, it just so happens, the city council is holding on to £1.1m of residents’ cash which has been overpaid in council tax. Would that be legal if it concerned customers of any commercial enterprise?
Perhaps all that should not be “shouted over and over again” in a bid to attract people to come and live here.
Of course (post-Brexit era permitting), doubling the city’s population would mean more council tax payers – though presumably we can’t exclude those who can’t afford their rent or mortgage. We can’t operate some kind of post-Brexit “migration” qualification welcoming only the well-off and employed.
So double the population means double housing, schools, social workers, carers and community workers, refuse collection, road repairs, more police, twice the demands on NHS services etc.
Edinburgh is a small, compact, city centre. Andrew Wilson said the west of the city and the Waterfront offer two of the best economic development opportunities in the UK, and that’s certainly a positive aspect, spreading outwards from the Capital’s heart – and justifying lots of tram extension.
He’s a smart man, saying there should be learning from past mistakes with change, reform and vision.
But perhaps the most crucial part of any enthusiastic, successful drive to double our population, must be to sort out the financial mess of our city and restore essential public services so we can cope with one million locals.
Political warfare harms democracy
THE English parliament was established in the 14th century and the British parliament (as all Scots know) dates from 1707. With all that experience behind it, we might have thought it could manage a better Brexit negotiation.
One of its biggest problems is the hostility, and almost warfare, that exists between political parties. Often their clanship and desire to beat their opponents comes way before what is best for the people. Party politics has developed the most damaging effect on democracy.
Whether we wind up staying in the EU or Leaving, wouldn’t it have been intelligent for Theresa May to set up a cross-party Brexit group rather than coming up with her own little plan figured out by her own tight little Tory group, especially as she doesn’t even have a clear Tory majority? Even if Jeremy Corbyn had privately agreed with her deal, he would never have voted for it.
The SNP isn’t perfect. I’ve criticised some of their policies. But at least Nicola Sturgeon accepts the “collegiate” design of the Scottish Parliament and knows how to negotiate with other parties when it’s useful or necessary. In that respect, Holyrood is superior to Westminster.
A sting in the tail of mice in the kitchen
A LADY in Craigmillar complained to the Evening News that pest control has left her home in the control of mice contaminating her food and inhabiting her cooker, bed and sofa.
Yet she has refused the landlord permission to seal pipes, replace kitchen units, kick plates and so on because it would cause “disruption”.
Just killing in-house mice won’t help. They live in walls and enter through tiny pencil-sized holes in floors, cupboards or anywhere, and around pipe holes especially in kitchens where they detect grub. Blocking them out is the only way to get rid of them.
My dear lady, understand this and let your landlords do the work.
I went psycho over a present
CHRISTMAS comedy cracker – Himself told me he’d bought me a three-hour “psycho” session. Puzzled and hurt – until I read the printout: “Cookery lesson in Saiko Vietnamese restaurant.”