Sarah Boyack: Right infrastructure vital to keep city moving

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The latest Police Inspectorate report confirmed what Edinburgh residents already knew. Our police are stretched beyond capacity.

Housebreakings and a spate of muggings are the reality for many who’ve suffered from crime and it’s no surprise that crime rates in Edinburgh have rocketed while detection rates are the lowest in Scotland.

Capital city status brings big economic opportunities we capitalise on to drive our city forward. What the Scottish Government needs to understand is that the right infrastructure is still needed to keep our city moving and growing. Less than 18 per cent of city spending is actually raised by the council – more and more council services rely on Scottish Government funding which hasn’t helped us. Less money for school buildings and flood investment has meant projects delayed, and cost increases. The council tax freeze has been underfunded for years now and there’s no sign of a short-term fix from the Scottish Government.

A modest tourism levy could help us support and retain the scale and quality of our cultural industries which our world-famous festivals rely on. Businesses are understandably enthusiastic that the Finance Minister has offered the possibility of reducing business rates but there’s no sign of how the resulting financial gap might be plugged.

As the council begins to consult on this year’s budget, the pressure on vital services such as education, social care and the third sector to contribute to our quality of life will be under huge strain.

Our city continues to grow and put services under huge pressure. NHS Lothian is still faced with delayed discharges because social care support services are overstretched, with money pouring into private health services to tackle waiting times because there is simply not enough staff and capacity in-house.

If Edinburgh’s population grows as expected at one per cent a year over the next 15-20 years the issue won’t go away. The Scottish Government must engage and help to meet Edinburgh’s challenges – Edinburgh’s opportunities – head-on.

Rents and house prices continue to escalate, making it harder for people to make our city their home. People on low and modest incomes can’t afford rents of £650 a month or an average house price of nearly £250,000.

Unless we act, housing in the city will be unaffordable to the people we need to live in the city. In the 1980s the council took a more proactive role in identifying and supporting development in key city sites.

Getting city centre gap sites, Leith Docks, Granton and Craigmillar built with high-quality, sustainable, government-supported funding has to be prioritised if we want to accommodate our growth.

But we also need major investment in sustainable travel. The City Deal is the opportunity to argue for more capacity in our rail network, not just to Fife and the Borders, but for more access within the city boundaries too. The South Suburban railway has been hovering in the background for nearly 20 years and would bring big benefits around the city, taking some pressure off our road network.

Our capital city is a global destination for tourism and arts and is a gateway to Scotland, but that shouldn’t mean residents have to face worse services.

It’s time for some vision and coordination with support from the Scottish Government to enable the high-quality services we all depend on.

• Sarah Boyack is Labour MSP for Lothian