To be Frank, it has been a strange year for Provost - Steve Cardownie
Some years ago I wrote a piece about the city’s Lord Provost, Councillor Frank Ross and how he had dealt with his first year in office so I decided to revisit the subject now that he has just started his final year.
I spoke to Frank yesterday when he told me about the impact Covid-19 had had on the business of the Council and in particular its effect on his civic duties. He said that pre-Covid his official engagements would total around 1,200 a year but new rules and regulations put paid to that and he now has to restrict himself to daily meetings online.
As Lord Provost he represents the city on more than 100 different organisations all of which demand his attention and participation to a greater or lesser extent.
He said that under normal circumstances community groups in particular would be invited to a reception at The City Chambers to celebrate a significant anniversary or achievement but due to Covid restrictions he has had to make do with sending an official letter to mark the event. He feels that such groups have lost out by not being able to visit the Chambers, which, after all, belong to the Edinburgh public, but hopes that they will resume soon.
There has already been some relaxation in the rules which will allow him to visit Leith Victoria AAC this Saturday which, formed in 1919, makes it Scotland’s oldest boxing club. In addition, he is determined to officiate soon at the unveiling of a statue of Ken Buchanan MBE, former undisputed world lightweight champion, which is to be erected within the environs of the new St James Quarter.
He also intends to visit the Chambers that used to host meetings of the former Leith Town Council in Queen Charlotte Street and hopes that he will be able to convene a formal meeting there in the near future. He told me that plans to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the expansion of Edinburgh had to be abandoned due to Covid but I reminded him (tongue in cheek) that Leith was amalgamated with Edinburgh despite a 1920 plebiscite in which the people of Leith voted by 26,810 to 4,340 against such a move.
He told me that chairing a meeting of the City Council (a privilege I have had on a few occasions) is normally the highlight of the month but convening a meeting online does not provide the same sense of occasion. Despite its shortcomings however, it now seems to be working as well as can be expected although Frank would like to see more members of the public logging on to the Council’s podcast to see for themselves.
The City Council held a reception to celebrate the achievements of Hibernian Women’s Football club at which Frank officiated and felt was long overdue given their impressive record. I say this because another potential event looms large on the horizon, that of a Civic Reception if Hibs overcome St Johnstone and lift the Scottish Cup later this month. As a season ticket holder at Tynecastle Park, Frank will carry out his duties diligently and denies that he will do so in the words of The Isley Brothers, “Behind a Painted Smile.”