Labour Leadership Poll – The Fight is on.

So Labour List /Survation surveyed 3,835 Labour members between 8th and 13th January 2020 via LabourList’s database. The results are a wee bit of a surprise. The first preferences put Rebecca Long-Bailey in the lead:

  1. R. Long-Bailey: 42%
  2. K. Starmer: 37%
  3. J. Phillips: 9%
  4. L. Nandy: 7%
  5. E. Thornberry: 1%
  6. C. Lewis: 6% (now withdrawn)

Transfers between the change candidates will be important, but clearly this is a blow for those party members that want the party to change course in order to become electable again.

There are other interesting points in the (unweighted) data. The people that took part were voted as follows in 2016: 2073 for Corbyn; 1058 for Smith and 704 didn’t take part. Of those that backed Corbyn in 2016, 23% of those that expressed a view backed Keir Starmer. Meanwhile Rebecca Long-Bailey picked up 66% of the same group.

Those looking for a candidate that will unite the party will be interested in the distribution of preferences. The huge spike for Jess Phillips in the 6th preference column tells us she is the candidate of last resort for a lot of members (50%). Similarly, 27% of members want anyone but Rebecca Long-Bailey. If correct, this may not stop Long-Bailey but it is insurmountable for Jess Phillips.

The challenge for the change candidates is winning of 2nd and 3rd preference votes. For example, for Starmer to win he must maximise votes from Thornberry, Nandy and Phillps (assuming more than Starmer and Long-Bailey reach the one-member-one vote stage). Jess Phillips gives very few preferences to Long-Bailey, but Nandy would transfer 14% after either a second or 3rd round knockout. Starmer needs to go all out to maximise his 1st preferences, but also convince those backing other change candidates to offer up their 2nd and 3rd preferences en masse.

Lastly, whilst 66% of members say they have made up their mind the remaining 34% are undecided. Of these, 35% are tilting towards Starmer whilst 34% are considering Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy is third with a respectable 10%. Reaching out to these members with a positive message about making us electable is key for whoever wins

The Labour Leadership Nominations… and what they mean for party unity.

The Labour party have now published the final MP Leadership nominations. Unsurprisingly, change candidate Keir Starmer walked it. The real news is that Clive Lewis dropped out and change candidate Lisa Nandy came a strong third. Emily Thornberry managed to get the level of support (at least 22 votes) needed to reach the next stage.

The next stage is for Starmer, Nandy, Phillips and Long-Bailey to receive nominations from at least (a) 5% of CLPs or (b) 3 affiliates (at least 2 of which shall be trade union affiliates) comprising 5% of fully paid up affiliated membership as of the 31st December 2019. Assuming they manage this, all 4 will be put to a vote of members, registered supporters and affiliates. A key challenge for the three change candidates (Starmer, Nandy & Phillips) at that stage will be to ensure their support use their 2nd and 3rd preference votes for other change candidates.

The Deputy Leadership contest is also wide open with 5 candidates reaching the next stage: Rosena Allin Khan (23 votes), Richard Burgon (22)
Dawn Butler (29), Ian Murray (34) & Angela Rayner (88).

What is interesting is how the Deputy Leadership vote split. The chart below shows that most candidates gained votes from MPs supporting a wide range of Leaderships candidates. The exception to this is Richard Buregon – he failed to get support from many MPs outside Long-Bailey’s camp – the people that voted for both were: Andy McDonald, Apsana Begum, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Beth Winter, Claudia Webbe, Dan Carden, Diane Abbott, Grahame Morris, Ian Byrne, Ian Lavery, Ian Mearns, Imran Hussain, John McDonnell, Jon Trickett, Kate Osborne, Mary Foy, Rachel Hopkins, Zarah Sultana. If a Deputy Leader is unable to reach out, this must surely raise concerns about unity within the parliamentary group?

The situation for the leadership candidates is a little better (see below), but Long-Bailey does rely heavily on support from those backing Burgeon along with a small group of Rayner’s backers.

Our next Leader has a huge challenge. Voters won’t trust us if we are not a united party and parliamentary group. This does not rule out Long-Bailey and Burgeon, but they need to show they have the ability to reach all of the party and the parliamentary group.

Briefing – Planned work along the Water of Leith Walkway by Scottish Water between Baberton Loan and Colinton Dell

CSO Plan
Scottish Water plan showing the locations of Combined Sewer Overflows along the Water of Leith’s upper reaches. 

This post provides information relating on the works Scottish Water (via their contractor Amey) will be carrying out which affect the Water of Leith Walkway between Baberton Loan and Colinton Dell from January 27th.

As many people may know, a trunk sewer runs along the Water of Leith. When it is full it overflows (normally raw sewage diluted with rainwater) into the Water of Leith via devices known as “Combined Sewer Overflows“. This work is focussed on the Combined Sewer Overflows. The table at the foot of this page outlines the planned work. 

Plan
Baberton Loan access arrangements. 

Whilst undertaking works at Baberton Loan Scottish Water will look to keep the pedestrian access open as much as possible, so the gates will normally be closed for the construction traffic, when traffic movements are required a Banksman will open the gate (which will temporarily close the path for Pedestrians), to allow the vehicles to pass, and then close the gate once through. Essentially when there are no traffic movements the pathway will be clear for Pedestrians to cross. Scottish Water are advising the residents of Woodhall Mains of these access arrangements.

Once Scottish Water have completed this work, the Council will then take forward work already planned to improve sections of the path. From them:

The following is the latest position I have received from Sustrans on this project. As envisaged, funding has been restricted to design work with construction delayed until the completion of the Scottish Water sewer outflow construction works within Colinton Dells.

“Sustrans have supported the design work on this route upgrade project to be shovel ready this year. It is our intention to fund the delivery of capital works following the Scottish Water works planned on the site for the first 6 months of 2020. We therefore intend to identify capital funds to deliver the route upgrade from our Network Development grant programme for 2020/2021.”

Once we have a clearer timescale for the completion of the SW works and Sustrans have confirmation of their 2020/2021 budgets we will be in a position to finalise the timescale for delivery of this project.

Water of Leith – ProjectBrief Project Scope
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 1 – South Gyle, Gogarloch SPS EONew Emergency Overflow, 6mm letter box type bar screen with Launder channel to be installed within existing wet well, as well as Telemetry Mods if required.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 2 – Currie, Old Mill Off Lanark Road CSO and Juniper GreenOriginal Scope was to Retro fit 2 No. Static Screens to the existing CSO chambers, new chambers are to be provided. New fixed BT lines required for Telemetry bollard.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 3 – Juniper Green, Off Lanark Road CSONew CSO chamber with Static Screen, including inlet and continuation pipework and new outfall with headwall and scour protection works, new fixed BT line required for Telemetry bollard.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 4 – Balerno, Bridge Road CSOs1No. Static Screen fitted to Existing MH1608 and 1No. New CSO Chamber with Static Screen located off Bavelaw Rd and all associated inlet and continuation pipework including new Outfall and headwall with scour protection works. GSM bollard required for Telemetry to both sites. Significant Phasing of overpumping for upsizing of continuation sewer and for connections.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 5 – Currie, Kinauld Farm CSONew CSO chamber with Static Screen, including all inlet and continuation pipework and outfall with new headwall, GSM ok for Telemetry Bollard. New access track required through field.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 6.1 – Colinton, Redford Drive CSO No. 2New CSO chamber with Static Screen to replace existing 2No. CSOs, with associated inlet and continuation pipework, including outfall tie in to existing surface water outlet. GSM bollard required for Telemetry.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 7 – Longstone CSOs1No. New CSO with Powered Screen at Inglis Green Car Sales, including all inlet and continuation pipework and Outfall with new Headwall and new MCC Kiosk.
1No. New CSO Chamber with Static Screen at Booker with all associated inlet and continuation pipework and new outfall with Headwall. GSM required for both sites for Telemetry (Bollard at Booker). New Power Supply required at Inglis Green Car Sales.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 8 –   Kingsknowe, R/O 29 Dovecot Grove CSONew CSO chamber with Powered Screen and all associated inlet and continuation pipework and new Outfall and headwall. GSM bollard required for Telemetry and New Power Supply required. Length of new access road required from the Water of Leith Walkway.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 9.1 – Currie, Kinleith Ind Est CSONew Static Screen fitted to existing manhole, existing CSO chamber to be re-built with new CSO. GSM bollard required for Telemetry
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 10 – Gyle Public Park No1 and No2 CSOsNew CSO chamber with Powered Screen and all associated inlet and continuation pipework and outfall pipework to tie into existing culvert. New MCC kiosk. GSM required for Telemetry and New Power Supply required.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH   6.2 – Colinton Rd @ St Cuthberts Court CSO.New CSO Chamber with Powered Screen and all associated inlet and continuation pipework outlet to tie into existing surface water sewer. New MCC Kiosk, GSM required for Telemetry, Power Supply required.
WATER OF LEITH UIDs – BATCH 9.2 – Currie, GDN 2A Lanark Road West CSO1No New CSO chamber at Bowling Green with New Powered Screen and all associated inlet and continuation pipework including new Outfall and headwall.
1No New CSO chamber at Kirkgate with Static Screen and all associated inlet and continuation pipework and new outfall with headwall. GSM required for Telemetry at both sites (New MCC Kiosk at Bowling Green, GSM Bollard at Kirkgate). New Power Supply required at Bowling Green.

Briefing – Three Problems on the Water of Leith Walkway

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The closed path between Sunbury Bridge and the steps at Dean Path

On the 31st of December 2019 the Evening News carried an article about the long-term closure of the Water of Leith path between Sunbury Bridge and the steps at Dean Path. In the article Ian Johnston made the point that:

“…the Water of Leith is a particularly wonderful part of Edinburgh – something I appreciated more on my return to the city – and it would be a terrible shame if the path continues to remain in its current truncated state for much longer.”

 I have spoken to Council’s Natural Heritage Officer about this and was given this response:

  1. The Council (“CEC”) has raised legal proceedings against a number of parties in respect of the landslip at the Dean Path.
  2. Before steps can be taken to reopen the path, the causes of the slippage require to be identified and measures to prevent further slippage implemented.
  3. Public safety and future amenity of the area remain paramount.
  4. CEC have authorised the use of funds to jointly meet the cost of specialist engineers to design and provide costings for the retaining works.
  5. Technical experts appointed by CEC and other parties respectively have now identified potential engineering solutions.
  6. Legal proceedings remain paused while parties explore resolution.
  7. Discussions are on-going with a view to agreeing these between CEC and the neighbouring owner(s).

So it looks like there is no immediate solution to the problem.

Dell

The Colinton Dell Closures

I also raised the complaints I have received about two closed bridges in Colinton Dell. Both are outside my Ward but lots of my constituents use them – below is the response I received from the Council:

“With regard to the two bridge closures in the Dells, referred to in points one and two of your email, we do not have a timescale for the reopening of these. However, I can confirm a grant application has been submitted to FCC Communities Foundation, included in the application is improvements to the path/steps/drainage on the access path to/from Dell Road (by Colinton Kirk), the installation of a new Pipeline Bridge, the removal and installation of a new bridge over the river parallel to Redhall Weir. The application should be considered by the Board of Directors on 04 March 2020 who will decide whether the project should be funded. A capital bid has also been applied for internally and we should receive an answer regarding any potential funding by the end of February 2020.”

So it looks like there is no immediate solution to these issues either. 

Why Boatels show developers will have the upper hand when it comes to our Greenbelt & any Redford Barracks redevelopment.

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As part of the debate surrounding the Scottish Government’s 2019 Planning Bill Kevin Stewart MSP, the Local Government Minister, said:

“I want people to be much more actively involved in the planning of their areas than ever before, to say what they think and to know they have been listened to.”

This is exactly what happened with the “Boatel” application for a canal-side site at Boroughmuir High School. Local residents and the school community worked together to raise awareness of the risks they felt the development posed.

A total of 376 representations were lodged with regard to the planning application, of which 374 were OBJECTIONS, including those from Tollcross Community Council, the Gilmore Place and Lochrin Residents’ Association, local residents, school parents and boat owners.

Before his committee unanimously rejected the application, Edinburgh’s Planning Convener was clear:

“We went on a site visit and I didn’t appreciate that the front door of Boroughmuir High School is onto the canal – I assumed it was onto Fountainbridge. I can see how vital this space is to the school. Active schools is a big consideration and this is an opportunity for the school to use that space.”

This was a great example of Edinburgh’s Councillors listening to the public and taking a stand against over-tourism – in short, it was democracy in action. As Kevin Stewart MSP put it during the progress of the Planning Bill:

“…developers don’t elect councillors, communities do elect councillors, and they’re the ones who take democratic decisions”.

So why is the development now going ahead? Simple – the developer side-stepped local government and successfully appealed to Kevin Stewart’s Scottish Government.

This is unfair. It’s not unfair that the developer appealed, but it is unfair that local communities also do not have a similar right where they oppose a planning decision.

As part of the debate surround the Planning Bill, there was a move by the Greens, Lib-Dems and Labour to introduce “Third Party Right of Appeal”. This would have given community groups limited powers to appeal bad planning decisions. However, Kevin Stewart MSP rejected this as the SNP and Conservatives pushed through the legislation. Either the SNP or Conservatives could have turned the vote and empowered communities by joining the Greens, Lib-Dems and Labour, but chose not to. Indeed, when supporting the SNP legislation the Conservative spokesperson Graham Simpson MSP declared:

“I commend this Tory-style bill to the chamber.”

The ramifications of this don’t stop with the Boatels. In my Ward I have developers sniffing around the Green Belt and the Redford Barracks site. They know that if their plans are rejected they have the right to appeal. If their plans are accepted, however, the local community has no right to appeal irrespective of how damaging the plans are.

As the Scottish Wildlife Trust put it:

“…the current planning system is unfairly weighted in favour of the developer. Several measures are needed to create a balanced, democratic system that defends our right to enjoy a healthy natural environment.”

Holyrood had a chance to change this, but instead decided to let developers retain the upper hand.

 

2019 – My Parkrun Year

ParkRun

What’s Parkrun.
Parkrun is are free, weekly, 5km timed run which take place around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.

These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and people of every ability take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience and mums with buggies; we welcome you all.

Edinburgh is lucky enough to have three Parkruns: Edinburgh (Cramond), Portobello (Figgate Park) and a new one at Oriam (Heriot Watt University).  However, there are many others just outside Edinburgh.

Parkrun has helped me hugely – after I had my cardiac pacemaker fitted in December 2015 it was a key part of how I recovered my health and confidence. Others use it to lose weight, spend time with friends or simply build up their fitness.

My Parkrun Year – 2019
I managed to complete 32 Parkruns at 13 courses in 2019. These largely focused on my “home” course (Cramond) and at the one in my hometown of Kirkcaldy (Beveridge Park).  Towards the end of the year the Oriam Parkrun started, this is closer to me so it’s now my “go to”  course for running and volunteering. They Oriam Parkrun course is a little hilly and can get congested  and quite muddy, but it is still a great event.

To keep Parkrun free and fun, it is important that people volunteer. In 2019, I managed to volunteer 8 times – a few of these were due to me being unable to run due to a broken arm.

My 2019 Events:
Volunteering 8
Edinburgh 12
Kirkcaldy 5
Oriam 4
Lochore Meadows 2
Plean 2
Amager Fælled 1
Camperdown 1
Dunfermline 1
Meadowmill 1
Montsouris 1
Vogrie 1
Westpark 1

Fastest Run: Kirkcaldy on 13/07/2019 – 23 mins 27s
Best Place: Meadowmill on 31/08/2019 -29th (but only 63 people took part!)
Best Age Grade: Kirkcaldy on 13/07/2019 – 62.9% (Age grading takes your time and uses the world record time for your sex and age to produce a score.)
My Best Course in 2019: Undoubtedly Parkrun de Montsouris.  This was a great course around a well maintained park full of fantastic sculptures.
Only Course where I saw a wild deer: Amager Fælled
Best Organised Event: Edinburgh Parkrun

 

pr - paris
Me running Parkrun de Montsouris

Volenteering

Volunteering at Edinburgh Parkrun (the best managed course)

The start of Oriam Parkrun:

The Council needs to understand what Edinburgh wants to gain from its visitor economy.

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The latest news story from Edinburgh’s Visitor Economy/ t feels like too many people in this city see profit in everything, and value in nothing.

There can be no doubt that concern about the impact of Edinburgh’s visitor economy has grown considerably in recent years. When I heard from the Evening News that a petition had been launched to  demand change, I actually welcomed the news. However, on reading the article and the petition, I feel unconformable about the way the Council Leader (Adam McVey, SNP Councillor for Leith) is being targeted.

To be clear, I share the frustration about the creeping privatisation of public space in Edinburgh, particularly how people are locked out of public parks and the lack of respect for our heritage. As a city, we are blessed with a fantastic built, natural and cultural heritage and I want to share it with people from all over the world. However, right now I don’t feel we are making the most of it. It feels like too many people in this city see profit in everything, and value in nothing.

For me, the tipping point came in the summer of 2018 when we had a black hording blocking views of the Castle. Since then we’ve seen memorial benches “discarded”, months of controversy over the Christmas Market, Church leaders ‘disappointed’ with ‘premature removal’ of Edinburgh’s famous nativity sculpture for Johnnie Walker advertising, and too many more examples of how our heritage is being sacrificed for quick commercial gain. However, these things keep happening and the Council is left reacting to events.

Cliff Hague summed it up like this:

“East Princes Street Gardens have been essentially handed over to the London-based Underbelly for ten weeks to do with as they wish, without the inconvenience of having to get planning permission beforehand. West Princes Street Gardens is screened off in August for the Summer Sessions concerts. Unbelievably ugly security barriers have been erected on the Royal Mile.”

and also:

“Edinburgh is now effectively run by the tourist industry”

On a personal note, my lovely wife’s grandfather was a Polish servicemen who came to Leith after Poland fell to the Nazis, and went on to fight alongside UK and Norwegian forces in Norway. Because of this, I am always hugely proud to see Edinburgh’s memorials marking Scotland’s links to Polish and Norwegian troops stationed here in WWII. Amongst these is the Christmas Tree placed annually on The Mound which is gifted to the city by Hordaland (Norway) to mark the “assistance provided by the Scots to Norway in WWII”. I was disappointed to see that this year the tree was hacked down right after Christmas and the memorial to Wojtek the bear and Polish WW2 veterans was fenced off on the same day (images below). What must people from outside Edinburgh make of this?

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I accept that the Council Leader has often been left reacting to these events. Rather than force his resignation, however, I think we should instead focus on what we actually want to change. Councillor Donald Wilson has already committed to leading a full review, and I hope the public and all 63 of Edinburgh’s Councillors will get behind that.

In response to the petition the Council Leader said: “many issues being raised are part of wider debate about how we manage size and scale of festivals and tourism”. I actually feel it is more fundamental than how we manage the status quo. There are really three key questions:

  1. What scale is right? The Edinburgh Tourism Strategy” boasts it’s being developed by an “industry-led group facilitated by Scottish Enterprise” called ETAG (with no community representation). This group wants to grow the current tourist economy from 4.1 million visitors per year by one third to 5.5 million by 2030. Can this level of growth be accommodated sustainably?
  2. Is quality of what we’re offering positioning Edinburgh optimally? Right now visitors arriving via Waverly Station are greeted by the smell of fried onions and German sausages emanating from the Christmas Market. I love German beer and food, but surely Edinburgh should be promoting its fantastic built, natural and cultural heritage better? How can Edinburgh’s small business improve on this and benefit more?
  3. Who benefits? Today the Evening News carried an article from the tourism lobby (the ones that oppose the tourist tax) who are clearly concerned that the public is waking up to what’s going on. It’s claimed that the industry supports 33,000 jobs in Edinburgh. I welcome every one of those jobs (particularly my daughter’s), but I do wonder how many come with fair pay, good conditions and fixed hours?

Whilst calling for the Council Leader to resign may help vent some frustration, it’s making a difference to the lives of residents than matters. For me the starting point is to understand what Edinburgh wants to gain from its visitor economy, and then we have to deliver that.