Two more councillors to leave Edinburgh City Chambers

Two more Labour councillors have announced they are to stand down at next year's elections.

Wednesday, 20th July 2016, 1:53 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th July 2016, 2:57 pm
Councillor Norma Austin Hart is standing down. Picture: Greg Macvean

The Evening News revealed yesterday that former Lord Provost Eric Milligan had decided to quit the City Chambers after 43 years as a councillor.

Now Norma Austin Hart and Keith Robson, who both represent Liberton/Gilmerton, are also to bow out next May.

Cllr Austin Hart famously changed her name from Hart just weeks before the 2012 election and secured top place on the ballot paper.

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She will have served ten years as a councillor by the time she steps down.

“I decided some time ago I would not stand again next year,” she said. “It’s really for family and personal reasons. I got married a few years ago, I’ve got a grandchild nearby and I will soon have a second. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I really do want to spend more time with them.”

And she said she also wanted to do other things with her life.

“I’m doing a Masters degree in creative writing at Stirling University and I have a Fringe play which I have written and directed.”

The play, G-l-o-r-i-a, takes its name from a Van Morrison song from the Sixties and is the personal story of an older woman looking back on her life. It is Cllr Austin Hart’s first production and will be performed at the Natural Food Cafe in Clerk Street.

Cllr Austin Hart was first elected to the council in 2007 representing Liberton/Gilmerton alongside Ian Murray, now MP for Edinburgh South.

“I was in the first intake of councillors elected for multi-member wards under proportional representation,” she said.

One early task she faced was campaigning against plans to shut Burdiehouse Primary School in her ward, but the closure went ahead.

“I think we will come to regret it because of the housing development planned for the South East Wedge over the next ten years. The loss of a primary school will be noticed,” she said.

She became Labour’s spokeswoman on economic development in opposition and under the current Labour-SNP coalition she is vice-convener of culture and sport.

Cllr Austin Hart also founded campaign group RRED (Responsible Retail of Energy Drinks), calling for a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children amid fears about health risks.

Schools and leisure centres in Edinburgh have banned the drinks and several independent retailers have stopped sales to under-16s. She says she will continue that campaign after leaving the council.

Cllr Robson, elected at a by-election in 2013, is quitting because he says his new job as director of charity services for Age Scotland is not compatible with being a councillor.

“It’s been a fantastic experience,” he said. “When you help someone get their problem resolved it makes it all worthwhile.”

He said he was still keen to advance plans for a cycle route from the Pentlands to Portobello, partly along the course of Burdiehouse Burn.