John McLellan: Edinburgh remains a sharply divided city

This year is the 15th anniversary of the One City Trust, the Edinburgh-wide charity created as a result of the then Lord Provost Eric Milligan's Commission on Social Exclusion.

Thursday, 4th January 2018, 6:00 am
Lord Provost Frank Ross has made the One City Trust one of his priorities. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The new incumbent Frank Ross has made its work one of his priorities for the year, which is very welcome.

It’s also the 20th anniversary of setting up the commission under the chairmanship of the then Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, to find practical ways to tackle social exclusion. It reported two years later, painting a picture of a sharply divided city.

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Ten years ago there was a bitter row about its future when Milligan accused the Lib Dem-SNP administration of neglecting the charity and Jenny Dawe, the council leader at the time, hit back by saying it was “appallingly” run. At least now there is some positive impetus. I was one of the original commissioners in 1998 and in the short time I’ve been a councillor it’s astounding how many of the issues we discussed in the late 90s are still being debated today as if they are new, such as the need for early intervention with children likely to face educational problems. For example, some excellent work was done in Craigmillar with young mothers who had dropped out of education which sought to help their children and also inspire them to learn at the same time. There was recognition that for most kids, even age five was probably too late.

Then there was an eye-opening session with drug addicts in Pilton and a suggestion that perhaps college training courses could be timetabled around methadone dispensing times. Thankfully that never made the list of recommendations.

One charity can’t change the world, but I hope the Trust makes more strides in the next 15 years than it has done in the last.