Tories rejected as Edinburgh tackles climate change and poverty – Adam McVey

Adam McVey looks back on a year that’s seen Edinburgh reject the Tories and make progress on tackling climate change, poverty and ‘over-tourism’.

Monday, 23rd December 2019, 6:00 am
Adam McVey has pledged to use tourist tax powers once they are available. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The election is over and we can get back to the important stuff like the countdown to Christmas. I would like to congratulate our city’s five MPs on their re-elections. Party politics aside, I know everyone across the political spectrum is motivated to help the communities they represent and the city has chosen to retain our current political make-up in batting for our Capital in Westminster.

While there wasn’t a change of MP within the city boundary, there was a dramatic shift in support. The SNP’s vote across the city increased by 7.5 per cent since 2017, a huge vote of confidence in our three first-class SNP MPs, Tommy Sheppard, Deidre Brock and Joanna Cherry. It’s fair to say the Lib Dems had a comeback of sorts with an increase of around five per cent of the vote although this will have been of little comfort to Lib Dem MPs, members and supporters as they watched Jo Swinson give her concession speech from the podium in East Dunbartonshire. The “Best for Britain” branding of Ian Murray’s campaign was enough to hold his Edinburgh South seat with a comfortable lead, but again, Labour members and supporters won’t likely be celebrating the nine per cent drop in their support within the last two-and-a-half years. The Tories not only failed to elect an MP in Edinburgh, they lost a quarter of their vote share, six per cent less than in 2017.

Climate ambition

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Adam McVey is the leader of Edinburgh City Council

This is a now a clear pattern. Earlier this year the Tories lost a quarter of their vote share in the Leith Walk by-election despite throwing money and activists at the campaign. They spent more money than any other party on their failed bid to win a councillor in Leith Walk. Their anti-tram, anti-SNP message went down like a cup of last year’s eggnog. While the Tories are getting away with vacuous dishonesty down south, it’s heartening that voters are looking at them in Edinburgh and in Scotland and choosing more honest, positive, ambitious and substantive options at the ballot box.

This has been a good year for our Capital – and I’m not just talking about the election results. We’ve set one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world, delivering a net-zero future by 2030. This year we’ve also been named the UK’s second most sustainable city, after Bristol. This is a record we’re going to build on as we secure a sustainable future for our planet.

Tourist tax powers

The city’s Poverty Commission is beginning to report on the real lived experience of the one in five of our citizens living in poverty as we take forward actions to address it. While we don’t have all the levers of control we’d need to eradicate poverty in the city, the recommendations of the commission on fair work, advice services and culture can drive a significant difference if public and private sector fully sign up.

In one of the the richest cities in the UK, with a high disposable income we can make the right choices to ensure all our communities share in Edinburgh’s astounding success.

Almost every indicator has demonstrated that this has been a bumper year of economic success. Unemployment is at a near-record low, investment remains high and our residential population and visitor numbers continue to grow. All of this brings challenges as well as opportunities and this year has seen national policy move to catch up with our council’s aspirations. Tourist tax powers are being progressed, as are the regulatory powers we need to control short-term lets. When our council has these powers, we’ll use them. It’s no contradiction to welcoming and building on the success of our Capital while addressing the challenges this brings. I look forward to all that 2020 will bring and I hope whichever holiday you’re celebrating this festive period, you have a great time enjoying the very best of what our fantastic city has to offer.

Adam McVey is the leader of Edinburgh City Council