Former Edinburgh transport convener's appointment to disabled access advisory body sparks criticism
Edinburgh SNP’s Lesley Macinnes defends her record
Former Edinburgh transport convener Lesley Macinnes has been appointed to a national advisory body on disabled access despite the strong criticism from disabled groups for the Spaces for People programme she was in charge of.
Councillor Macinnes, now the SNP's finance spokesperson on the council, was made a member of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) by Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth just before Christmas. The committee advises Scottish ministers on the barriers and challenges for disabled people in relation to transport. Councillor Macinnes's four-year appointment runs until December 31, 2026, and carries remuneration of £162 per day for a time commitment of between 12 and 18 days per year.
Sight loss charities RNIB Scotland and Guide Dogs Scotland along with the Edinburgh Access Panel warned when the controversial Spaces for People scheme was being introduced that some measures would make it more difficult for disabled people, including wheelchair users and blind and partially-sighted people, to get around safely. They particularly highlighted the dangers posed by the "floating" bus stops and parking spaces which involved people having to cross cycle lanes to get on a bus or reach their car.
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Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber said: "Many people across Edinburgh will rightly share my concerns about this appointment, given the history of decisions taken by Councillor Macinnes during Spaces for People and some of the other measures when she was transport convener, where pedestrians and those with disabilities were certainly not placed at the top of her priority list. It was clear to many that cyclists were her priority and there was significant lobbying being done by those groups." She said she hoped Councillor Macinnes would now show a “much more balanced approach”.
Robin Wickes of the Edinburgh Access Panel said the council had assessed 60 per cent of Spaces for People measures as being negative for disabled people, but they went ahead anyway. Nevertheless he welcomed Councillor Macinnes's appointment and wished her well. He said: "There were controversial things like Spaces for People but she did good things as well – for example she engineered some very productive meetings with Lothian Buses where we talked about access on the buses."
Disabled campaigner Hugh Munro, who eventually secured a partial return of blue-badge parking at the west gate of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, said it seemed a “very strange appointment”, given Councillor Macinnes’s track record and “when there are lots of other people who have campaigned to get disabled people a better deal in society”. He said: “I’m thinking of her attitude to cycle lanes how people with a mobility car had to cross a cycle lane to get to the car. And if you take the Botanics, she would have been happy for nothing to happen about restoring disabled parking at the entrance.”
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Current transport convener Scott Arthur congratulated Councillor Macinnes on the appointment. He said: "In Edinburgh we are committed to establishing an access charter to make sure as we plan changes to transport everybody is treated on an equal basis and I look forward to Councillor Macinnes contributing to that debate."
Councillor Macinnes said: “The work of MACS is extremely important in ensuring accessibility for everyone in our community and I hope to contribute meaningfully to the work of the committee. It has been a continuing and growing concern of mine that there is enormous misunderstanding around the kind of positive changes that have to happen to our transport network and the way we live our lives to ensure everyone has access to the places they want to go to and by the means they want to access those places. Accessibility, despite what others have said in the past, has been central to my thinking in transport developments in Edinburgh and I hope to bring my experience in a useful way to the exceptionally important work of the committee.”