Nigel Bagshaw: Choose a greener future for our great city in 2017
Edinburgh is a very typical capital city. Thousands of us have come to the city from other parts of Scotland, the UK, or indeed across the world. It is that mix of new and old, that link to the past coupled with a willingness to embrace new ideas which makes great cities.
I myself have made a relatively short journey, from Yorkshire, more than three decades ago. Edinburgh is now my home, where I have raised my family, contributed to the community and forged deep friendships.
But in those 30-plus years I’ve also recognised that Edinburgh is very far from typical.
It’s not just the stunning architecture of the Old and New Towns which makes this a fantastic city; not just the awesome natural setting of Arthur’s Seat, the Castle and the Pentlands; or our celebration of arts and culture in the festivals. It’s our capacity to adapt and change and look forward to the 21st century.
In 2017 I’d love to see that forward-looking spirit reflected in the choices our city makes. Here, then, are some of my own choices.
We can choose to start the transformation in how we get around the Capital, catching up with the dramatic changes in other European cities towards walking, cycling and public transport, delivering cleaner air, safer streets and quicker journey times for everyone.
We can choose to meet the city’s pressing housing needs by bringing into use 5000 empty homes and making much better use of swathes of derelict land for homes which people can actually afford. That would protect our precious green belt and green spaces while making sure that existing neighbourhoods are improved.
Our city can lead the world in slashing the carbon emissions which lie behind climate change, by tackling fuel poverty, investing in energy from the wind, the sun and water; and getting our public pension funds out of dirty fossil fuel industries. That’s what a truly green “City Deal” would look like.
Edinburgh can decide to be a fairer city, taking firm action on soaring housing costs, improving the standard of accommodation for homeless people and making it much easier for disabled people to enjoy the city.
We can be a caring Capital, paying a decent wage for those who care, for both the oldest and the youngest residents. Our economy can be anchored in the energy and enthusiasm of thousands of small businesses, employee-run ventures and a blossoming social enterprise sector.
The city’s schools can offer safe, modern facilities which see all of our children flourish, allow teachers to teach and which welcome much wider community use in evenings and at weekends.
And we can better reflect directly what residents want, by improving the services which keep our parks and streets clean and safe, by getting basics like bins and recycling right first time, and by giving much more direct say over public budgets and planning decisions to people who live here.
In fewer than four months, people will go to the polls to elect a new city council. Green councillors and Green candidates will be putting forward positive ideas, like those I have suggested. Our aim is to at least double our numbers from the six seats we won back in 2012.
But whichever parties and candidates prosper or falter, we all have a common interest in making the next five years about a vision of Edinburgh as a fairer, greener capital; and a vision that matches the ambition of the people who have made Edinburgh what it is.
Edinburgh really is a great city and to remain a great city, the only path ahead is to a green future, our shared green future.
Nigel Bagshaw is Green Councillor for Inverleith