John McLellan: '˜Mansplaining', egos and testosterone at Edinburgh Council

Edinburgh councillors staggering from meetings 'dizzy and reeling' was not an uncommon occurrence in the heady days of the Jinglin' Geordie and lunchtime boozing. Staggering to meetings wasn't unheard of either, but that's not what the Greens' Susan Rae meant in her cry of anguish at her party's conference last weekend.

Thursday, 26th October 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 7:19 am
Susan Rae of the Greens is unimpressed by council culture

The newly elected Leith Walk councillor instead launched a scathing attack on the culture she has found in the City Chambers, complaining bitterly about how she has “staggered from council meetings, dizzy and reeling from the scent of testosterone and seething ambition”.

Really putting the boot in, she thundered: “I have been frustrated by the pervasive excuses that are designed to halt progress and rendered absolutely catatonic by relentless and really, really tedious mansplaining.”

And, just to narrow it down a bit to the higher echelons, she added: “I now know in some council chambers we are dealing with egos so enormous that only a private office can contain them.”

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It's a jungle out there for cyclists. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Phew, that must rule me out because I haven’t had my own office for years now, the same day my sense of ambition was suddenly replaced by the survival instinct. OK, so the testosterone charge might stick, but I’m not going to feel guilty about something which has given me three kids.

The strange thing, though, is that despite Susan complaining that her ambitions are being stymied, of all the parties in the City Chambers the Greens are the ones doing the best given the election result.

The Greens came second last, yet they effectively control the policy agenda because without them the SNP-Labour administration can be out-voted. And with the best will in the world, the eight Green councillors must accept their world vision is not shared by everyone, not least the 28 per cent of the Edinburgh population who gave their first preferences to the Conservatives.

It is not naïve of her to express discontent, as she put it, but it is unrealistic if the Greens expect to get everything they want when their party came fourth. And with affordable housing, green transport policies, environmental protection and the universal citizens income high on the administration agenda, the Green programme seems pretty well advanced. Why, they were even given their own champion, for the Union Canal.

It's a jungle out there for cyclists. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

The Greens, she says, have not signed up for “mediocrity instead of excellence” but then again, who did?

Of course my idea of excellence might not be the same as hers, or that of the councillors in the other parties, and the old cliché about politics being the art of the possible holds good. It is also the art of negotiation and

compromise and accepting that victory is rarely the unconditional surrender of an opponent.

As a fellow newbie, do I share any of Susan’s disappointment? Well, the level of tribalism has been disappointing but not surprising; this week a Labour councillor has been blocked from seconding a Conservative motion because, apparently, “it isn’t done” .

But guess what, the Greens are as guilty as anyone.

However, she does have some valid points. Are there very big egos in the Council administration driving forward agendas which are not entirely clear? Do they have big offices? Are they male?

Would re-introduced bears add to Scotland’s natural ecosystem by leaving their deposits in protected ancient woodland?

Tales from the mean streets

Happy motoring 1: Cyclist on Craigentinny Road swerves to miss pothole and angry driver blares horn. Angrier cyclist blocks car while shouting he was avoiding said pothole. Even angrier driver screams back. Furious cyclist repeats pothole claim, but keeps bus and the rest of the traffic waiting. Realising the only option is moving on or assault, cyclist moves on. Cue incandescent engine revving.

Happy motoring 2: Cycling up Dalry Road, white van man pulls out in front of me. I stop and signal for him to go on. He stops, I say go on. He starts screaming at me before speeding off.

Happy motoring 3: I cycle through green light at Tollcross, but being a big junction when I cross to Lauriston Place, the lights have changed and a taxi driver is screaming at me.

Gentlemen, life really is too short.

They’re sooking up to the Greens

Nobel Prize-winning left-wing economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz has once again proved himself very useful to the SNP, but in a different way to his oft-quoted support for independence in 2014.

Still a leading member of the SNP’s Council of Economic Advisers, this week Stiglitz rubbished the idea of a guaranteed state wage for all, the universal citizen’s income (UCI), as a costly diversion from boosting well-paid employment.

Although Nicola Sturgeon has promised to pursue the policy, Stiglitz has given her a get-out from what we now know, thanks to Scottish Conservative Freedom of Information requests, would cost Scotland over £12 billion a year.

Even significant personal tax rises would still leave a shortfall of more than £3bn.

Much of the utopianism behind UCI is based on a supposedly conclusive, four-year 1970s experiment in Manitoba which turned out to be anything but.

Claims about revolutionary findings and a right-wing cover-up have been deconstructed by the Canadian professor who extensively studied the data.

It’s therefore surely only a matter of time before the SNP dumps such a ruinous idea, but sadly Edinburgh Council’s weak administration has just sooked up to the Greens, whose pet policy this is, by agreeing to run a feasibility study here.

Who knows how much this pointless exercise could cost Edinburgh tax-payers, but how much more do Edinburgh’s coalition parties need to know, other that universal citizen’s income will cost billions we don’t have and the SNP’s own economy guru says it’s a waste of money.

In defence of (my) diesel

Edinburgh Council this week launched a three-month consultation into whether owners of diesel cars should pay more for their parking permits, but it looks like the money has already been banked.

At the same time as publicising a consultation, the administration announced it needs to find £21 million in savings thanks to an expected 3 per cent cut in its Scottish Government grant.

And here’s how the consultation will go: diesel car owners will say no and everyone else who takes part will say yes.

And yes, we do have a diesel car, which we bought because of its low fuel consumption and emissions, and the latter has just been verified by an independent emissions test.

Meanwhile buses, trucks, vans and taxis carry on regardless; as do petrol cars, which let’s not forget produce more carbon dioxide than diesel cars.