Gavin Corbett: We must not let Tories treat us like children
Councils provide many of the services we treasure. They fund nurseries and run our schools. They ensure there is social care for our older people. They look after our parks, streets, waste collections and libraries. Planning controls shape how our cities and towns look and feel.
Now, of course, people will argue about how well councils do these things. But few would dispute that they are vital services.
So local councillors need to have a sound understanding of all of these services and how to improve them.
Good local councillors should also act as champions for their wards. In my own area of Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart I have campaigned successfully with residents for traffic calming and against house demolition; organised or taken part in countless community clean-ups; and stood with community campaigns to put people before profit when development is planned.
It is the same for Green councillors across Edinburgh. My colleague Melanie Main in Meadows-Morningside has led on a community shop in Bruntsfield and tackling road safety in Braidburn and Greenbank.
In Southside-Newington Steve Burgess has won backing for a local bike track for young people.
Chas Booth has doubled the budget for £eith Decides, the ground-breaking scheme where local people choose spending priorities. In Inverleith, Nigel Bagshaw has supported local communities in fighting destructive developments at Edinburgh Academicals and Canonmills Bridge.
However, the Conservatives are arguing you should set all that aside. The Tories want to see council elections on May 4 as a dry run for something that is not in the remit of councils: whether or not Scotland should be independent.
So out of the window go questions on whether your prospective councillor knows anything about what councils do; or if they have the skills, energy and focus to do the job.
Why are the Tories doing this? There are three possible explanations.
The first is that the Tories are daft and don’t understand what the election on May 4 is about. Maybe, but let’s leave that aside for now.
The second is that the Tories believe that voters are daft. This is a more damning charge and, reeks of an utterly patronising attitude towards the people of Edinburgh.
However, the real reason, I believe, is classic diversion. Having made a horlicks of Brexit (which 75 per cent of people in Edinburgh rejected) the Tories are desperately trying to turn attention away from that.
Meanwhile, in Morningside and Craiglockhart and across south Edinburgh, residents remember that all three Tories on the planning committee backed the ransacking of outstanding green space at Craighouse on Easter Craiglockhart Hill, while, two-and-a-half years later, not a single stone or slate of the A-listed buildings there have been safeguarded. No wonder they are so desperate to skip past such embarrassments.
Gavin Corbett is Green councillor for the Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart ward at Edinburgh City Council