In his recent “Platform” article (4th September 2017) Councillor Nick Cook took the time to nostalgically invoke the Thatcher era in order to justify opposing the plan to extend Edinburgh’s tramline to Newhaven.
Like me, Councillor Cook is a son of Kirkcaldy. Whilst he probably spent at least some of the Thatcher era in nappies there, I am a little older so I can remember what it was like. Redundancies. De-industrialisation. Mass unemployment. Hope lost.
In the space left behind by employment, deprivation and inequality grew. Places in Fife like Methil, Leven and Thornton still carry the scars. Labour Governments in Edinburgh and Westminster undid some of that damage, but that progress is now slowly being eroded.
Many would argue northern Edinburgh shares the same experience. Where there were jobs we now have “brown field” sites ripe for development. Where there was once a proud workforce, we have pockets of deprivation which would bring shame on any civilised nation. This is part of Thatcher’s legacy.
It appears, however, that Councillor Cook wants to turn his back on that community in the same way that he walked away from his Liberton/Gilmerton Ward when he switched to Morningside in May.
Conversely, I want to bury the damage Thatcher did in northern Edinburgh under a tramline. It was the argument that extending the tram would bring economic growth to northern Edinburgh that led to me backing the proposals. As well as bringing investment locally, it will connect its people with our Capital’s key employment hubs: the City Centre, Edinburgh Park and the Airport.
Yes, there are still many unanswered questions and significant uncertainties. I am particularly concerned by the revelation that Transport Scotland are not responding to meeting requests from City Transport Chiefs – an issue I have taken up directly with Humza Yousaf, the SNP minister responsible.
Nonetheless, I am convinced that there is sufficient basis to justify taking the proposal to the next stage. Whilst we do this, the inquiry in to the fiasco surrounding the existing tramline’s construction should run its course so by late 2018 we will be in a position to reach a decision.