Donald Anderson’s article offers a timely reminder that although Edinburgh is an affluent city, not everyone benefits from that prosperity. Indeed, it is too easy to view Edinburgh as a city where a few property developers and private landlords accumulate wealth whilst the many that work in the retail, tourism and service industry struggle to make ends meet on low wages.
Indeed, the Convenorship of the Council’s “Housing and Economy Committee” recently swapped from one of Edinburgh’s seven Councillors who happen to be a private landlord to another. I’m sure that both treat their tenants well, but Edinburgh is a city that has industrialised exorbitant rents and “holiday lets” whilst simultaneously presiding over a housing crisis. The latest estimate is that up to 10,000 properties have been converted to holiday lets – with many, thanks to the Scottish Government, paying zero Council Tax or Business Rates. Somebody is making serious money out of this, and it’s not the people cleaning the properties between lets.
It’s not just housing where we need to do more. The “FUSE Academy” was recently enthusiastically launched in Edinburgh by Keith Brown MSP (Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work) to underpin the new St James Quarter development. FUSE aims “to help drive a world-class customer care experience in Edinburgh and to promote the value and appeal of careers in the retail and hospitality sector”. The problem is that the St James Quarter’s owner won’t guarantee businesses within the development will pay the living wage. It is outrageous that this developer is demanding staff offer “world-class customer care”, but not guarantee a fair rate of pay.
Let’s be honest, however, the retail, service and tourism sectors are a huge part of Edinburgh’s economy but these are often jobs which offer poor pay and conditions. As Donald Anderson says, if Edinburgh is to remain a prosperous city, more people must benefit from that wealth and the Council must engage with the Scottish Government, Developers and Landlords to make sure that happens.
We need to re-balance Edinburgh’s economy for the many, not the few.