Edinburgh transport convener Lesley Macinnes denies she is waging a 'war on car'

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes has hit out at opposition claims she is engaged in a "war on cars".

Friday, 12th November 2021, 4:55 am

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And she rounded on councillors who attacked the administration for failing to heed the views of the public who responded to consultations.

It came as the transport committee approved the latest changes to Spaces for People schemes, including the partial reopening of Braid Road to traffic – despite a majority of residents saying they wanted a full reopening.

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Transport convener Lesley Macinnes

Tory councillor Stephanie Smith told the committee: "I was so pleased to see local residents along with those who use this route were engaged in this consultation process.

"What I'm in awe at, yet again, is that as a committee we are engaging with these residents, asking them to take time out of their busy days to respond and and then not implementing the will of the huge majority and saying 'Thanks, but we know better'."

And Lib Dem Kevin Lang said: "This is the latest in a long list of examples where we have gone out and asked what people think; we have presented options and they have come back with overwhelming feedback which this committee is yet again going to ignore.

"What is the point of people responding to consultations when time after time after time this committee and this council goes against what we're being told?"

But Councillor Macinnes said the council, under a previous administration, had committed to a "transport hierarchy" that put pedestrians and wheelchair-users top of the priorities, followed by cyclists, then public transport, then freight and then the private car.

She said councillors had a responsibility to see changes were in line with that hierarchy.

"I have watched, particularly over the Spaces for People issue, opposition councillors tell us time and time again that we're ignoring the public view and that we are somehow failing the city in doing so.

"Time and time again it is thrown down as a gauntlet to us that we need to implement every single thing that comes out of a consultation, but the problem with that is it takes way from the role and responsibility we have to also bring in expert knowledge, an acknowledgement of the legal framework in which we have to operate around road changes; it ignores the fact we have to look at the transport hierarchy; it ignores the responsibility to move our city into a green healthier space.”

Views expressed in a consultation could only be one part of a decision.

"I've been accused right from the start of this administration, in a handy little phrase bandied around by the opposition, of having a war on the motorist, a war on the car.

"I'm a car owner and driver myself, but I adjust my use of my car so that I'm using it as little as I possibly can and I've also adopted the use of an electric bike as my alternative, but that's one person's choice, I'm not suggesting everyone has to go down that road."

But she said surveys had shown more people would cycle if they felt safe and the council had a responsibility to help create those conditions.

"I'm really sick and tired of hearing this mantra coming from opposition councillors that somehow we're being irresponsible .

"As an administration we have tried really hard to balance the views of local communities and the responsibility we have to make progress towards and environment that more people are comfortable with, that more people want.

"If we are honestly saying we're going to consult on something and take the results and simply apply them irrespective of the consequences and the fact it would take us further away from a greener, healthier city then what's the point of having councillors?

"Do we not look at international examples, do we not look at research that's out there?

"I'd say that was a dereliction of duty from councillors when they should be looking beyond as well as with the results of consultations in order to make informed intelligent decisions about what we have to do in this city."

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