Labour’s manifesto became irrelevant as voters had lost trust in Jeremy Corbyn over Brexit.

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My mages from the the 2019 Count – Ian Murray was re-elected, but other good candidates missed their chance.

Ian Murray MP was correct when he said in his acceptance speech that Labour had let down the country. The Tories had their best result since the 80’s and Labour had its worst result since the 30’s. People across the UK from Peterhead to Plymouth have been slipping into poverty under the Tories since 2010, and that may accelerate if Brexit is now implemented by Boris Johnson and his Eton chum Jacob Rees-Mogg.

As an MP Ian Murray lost friends last night (and their staff lost their jobs), and many voters right across the UK lost hope. I knocked on hundreds of doors for Labour in Edinburgh South and found that Jeremy Corbyn was a bigger issue for voters than Indyref & Brexit combined. Yes, some voters were supportive of Jeremy Corbyn but the vast majority simply did not trust him. It is now clear from media reports that this was not an uncommon experience.

Yes, voters don’t trust Boris either, but it is clear they put a Tory Brexit before a radical Labour Manifesto. With just one result to be called, Labour is on 32.2% nationally and the Tories won 43.6% on a nationalist ticket.

In Scotland the situation is more complex. Tactical voting for the SNP took the nationalist vote here to 45% of the vote, with Labour on 18.6% (an 8.5% drop on what Kezia Dugdale achieved in 2017) and the Tories on 25.1%. Whilst much of the local SNP campaigns avoided talking about independence, Nicola Sturgeon is claiming that pro-UK parties only winning 54% of Scottish votes is a mandate for a further referendum. She has said that next week her Nationalist Government will publish a “detailed democratic case” for letting her decide on whether there should be a second independence referendum.

Don’t expect that “detailed” case from Nicola Sturgeon to answer fundamental questions on the deficit, currency or even EU membership. Instead she’ll argue that Scotland should walk away from those slipping in to poverty south of the border, without really providing answers on what Scotland’s financial position would be.

So people north and south of the border face a bleak future one way or another despite Labour offering some fantastic policies in our manifesto. The problem is that the lack of trust in Jeremy Corbyn meant our manifesto did not connect with voters. This loss of trust, of course, started with how the party dealt with the Brexit result – the party equivocated when leadership was required. A different leader may well have been able to bridge the remain and leave positions, but neither camp were willing to trust Jeremy Corbyn due to his record on the EU. The EU election was possibly our last chance to regain trust, but we wasted that opportunity.

A second issue which undermined trust in Jeremy Corbyn is the issue of anti-Jewish racism. Although seldom raised on the doorstep, those that brought it up always had heartfelt concerns.

Soon Labour will face the challenge of fighting the 2021 Holyrood elections. These elections approach us at a time when the public in Scotland is openly questioning the state of key public services like education and health. Before we can respond to that challenge, however, we need to rebuild trust in our party, and its leadership.

Despite the best efforts of the SNP, Brexit will continue to dominate UK politics in the coming weeks. That’s why I welcome the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has said he will soon stand down and I hope we can enter the next sitting of parliament with an acting leader that has been clear and unequivocal on the issue.

Bulb Planting with Sophie Cooke in Colinton Mains Park

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It was really good to be out in Colinton Mains Park planting daffodil bulbs with local children and families today. It was freezing, but that did not stop the kids planting the bulbs (and hunting for worms). ELGT have now planted 5,000 bulbs in the park this week with St Marks PS, Colinton PS and local residents – it is going to look great in the spring!
I am pictured with Sophie Cooke who is Labour’s candidate in Edinburgh South West (this includes the communities around the park).
Sophie used to be a member of the SNP. She joined the nationalists after the independence referendum, but decided to leave following their failures in education and health policy, and a realisation that the party was less progressive than it claimed. She is not the only person to have reached that conclusion!
She passionately believes in social justice and real democracy, and had become increasingly worried about climate change and the housing crisis, so she joined the Labour Party in 2017 to campaign in Edinburgh South West in support of our candidate that year.
She’s a novelist, poet, lecturer, and tutor in creative writing. She has lived in nearby Parkhead for the last five years where she is active within her local community – she’s a member of the Hailes Quarry Park Steering Group, and in March of this year helped organise a Community Litter Pick to deal with the litter problem in the park.
She is a Muslim by way of religious belief, and a feminist, committed to achieving equal rights for women. She has also worked to tackle antisemitism. In her spare time she likes growing vegetables and flowers in her back garden. She lives with her partner of five years, Ronnie, and their rescue dog.

Community Speedwatch Scheme in South West Edinburgh

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Below is a briefing from the police in South West Edinburgh on the “Community Speedwatch Scheme” which allows trained private citizens monitor speeding in their neighbourhood. The scheme is already working in Fife.  I’d rather the police were doing this work, but I accept residents may want to play a role in making their community safer. 

I am contacting you to provide an update in relation to the Community Speedwatch Scheme. As most of you will be aware, this was initially mentioned some time ago by CI Alan Carson when he was the South West Chief Inspector.  Community Speedwatch is a voluntary scheme, involving approved members of local communities to monitor vehicle speeds at identified sites. This scheme is not about enforcement or intended to replace any police activity, this scheme is another layer of road safety that members of the community can be involved in.

In the South West we have been continuing to work on introducing the scheme. It has taken longer than expected due to insurance and financial complexities but I am pleased to report that we have now addressed these and are at the stage where we can introduce the pilot.

The pilot will be the first time that Community Speed Watch has operated in Edinburgh Division and we are offering the South West local Community Councils an opportunity to apply to take part. From applications  we will initially select 2 locations to launch the scheme in Spring 2020 and if successful, roll out availability  to all South West Community Councils in later in 2020.     

The scheme will work by trained volunteers working  in a team of three, using a detection device to monitor the speeds of vehicles travelling through their local area.  The registration number of speeding vehicles is recorded. Warning letters are then sent out by the Police to the registered keepers stating that their vehicle has been reported as speeding.  Locations for monitoring speed are selected from sites suggested by the community, based on where there is most local concern about speeding traffic, or the impact of speed.  Sites will be risk assessed for suitability by Police, and we will provide the use of a speed detection device, high visibility jackets, signage and equipment for the collection of data. Any ongoing issues will be picked up by the police and enforcement activity undertaken.

We are this week contacting  every Community Council in the South West providing details of the scheme to allow them to discuss with their members. The Police Community teams will provide a full overview in due course during their attendance at Community Council meetings allowing members to decide if they wish to participate.

A training package will be provided by the Police to all volunteers.  The training provided will cover an overview of the scheme and how it works, the operation of the speed detection device, how to record the data collected by volunteers, general data protection principles, personal safety and conflict management, in addition to health and safety awareness. 

Briefing – Water Flowing on to Oxgangs Green

 

Below is a briefing on the water flowing on to Oxgangs Green I received  from Manor Estates Housing Association (see image I took earlier in the year).   The plans show the route of the fresh water pipe through the area. At the current time, the problem is not believed to be related to the Hunter’s Tryst School site (housebuilding starts in March 2020)  – but it is suspected the pipe itself emanates from within the historic/listed well heads within the old school grounds. I have made everyone involved  aware that the water froze this week and posed a real risk to pedestrians.

We were first made aware of this problem during mid-August 2019 when David Hood Consultants working in the adjacent old school ground informed Manor Estates they were attempting to repair water leakage from what appeared to be a historic fresh water underground supply pipe discharged from the historic well head within the old school grounds.

The consultant informed us they had employed a specialist drainage contractor to video the underground pipe from the old school ground downhill to a manhole located in Manor Estates communal ground at corner of road junction with Oxgangs Green & Oxgangs Avenue.

We believe the route of this underground pipe passes underneath the communal estate grass area adjacent to 2 Oxgangs Green.

Unconfirmed information provided by the specialist drainage contractor who previously carried jetting of the pipe followed by a video survey indicated the fresh water pipe appeared to be broken with collapse somewhere between the adjacent church hall boundary lines and downstream towards the manhole located close toward the roadway junction. 

After some discussions and at our persistence Scottish Water did attended site on Friday 8 November 2019 and had taken a water sample from water on the entrance footpath of your block, results from the water testing confirmed this water is non chlorinated fresh water therefore not water that could be leaking from any Scottish Water pipe network.

We are currently in negotiations with Scottish Water to establish who is responsible for maintenance and repair to this section of pipe.

 

I propose to keep you informed again by letter once further clarity over ownership & who may be responsibility for repair becomes known to the Association.

Briefing – Gorgie City Farm Closure

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Below is a briefing from Council Officers on the crisis facing Gorgie City Farm. My political group is adamant that if the farm has a future the Council should do what it can to support it and that the Ward Councillors (with their excellent connections to the local Community) should lead on it.  Councillor Donald Wilson from my group was clear that he is far from giving up hope on the future of the farm.

The organisation has been in receipt of a grant from Communities and Families (2016-19 Grant programme, extended to March 2020) with an annual value of £109,214 paid in quarterly instalments (the last payment will be due in early January 2020).

The organisation rents the land from the Council and the costs of the lease were agreed at Finance and Resources Committee on 23rd March 2017. The land is not for sale.

The Farm first made Council Officers aware of their situation in a telephone call on 31st October and on 1st November an Insolvency Practitioner was appointed. Council officers have had an initial conversation with the practitioner (4th November) and below are the key points from that conversation.

  1. The board at Gorgie City Farm made the decision to seek an insolvency practitioner because the cash in the bank was not sufficient to meet their ongoing costs.
  2. The role of the practitioner will be to ensure the proper winding up of the company.
  3. The costs of continuing to employ staff to keep the Farm trading/open was too great and so the Farm is now closed to the public, however there is cover to ensure the livestock are cared for.
  4. The Insolvency practitioner is confident that all the animals will be re-homed. There have been numerous offers to take the animals.
  5. The assets of the company are being secured to ensure the farm is in as strong a position as possible to move forward if it can.
  6. There have been some offers of interest in running the farm/using the property from a number of parties, however it is too early for the practitioner to assess the full merits of these approaches and it is intended that this would be done in partnership with the Council as the landowner.
  7. A further role of the practitioner is to ascertain how the company got into this position.
  8. The Council Leader, Deputy Leader and officers are meeting the Insolvency Practitioner this week. Thereafter, the Council will convene a meeting later this week to discuss the way forward.

Council Briefing: Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay

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Evening News – “The Capital’s leading heritage body, the Cockburn Association, called for an emergency review and a potential delay to the opening of the Christmas Market after it was revealed the new extended market did not have the required planning permission. “

Below is a briefing I received from the Council this evening on the situation in East Princes Street Gardens. It does provide some context, and explains the lack of planning permission for this colossal structure.  

It’s frankly unbelievable that Underbelly can find the time to design and procure the colossal structure we see in East Princes Street Gardens, but are too busy to submit a simple planning application. The Council should take this loss of public amenity for private gain seriously.

Edinburgh’s Old & New Towns form one of the most beautiful cityscapes in the world – we have a duty to cherish this brilliant piece of heritage. It comprises a rich cultural, built & natural environment, but the real problem appears to be that Underbelly can’t monetize it.

I’m proud that Edinburgh is the UK’s greenest city, but what is happening in East Princes Street Gardens is completely unsustainable. In the near future Edinburgh will consult on its tourism strategy and the future of its winter festival. I hope residents will use this as a chance to protect our public parks and make Edinburgh’s visitor economy more sustainable.

Background
As at April 2019, the Council was in year three of a three-year contract with Underbelly to deliver Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay, with an option to extend for up to three further years, subject to agreed performance indicators.

The redevelopment of the Scottish National Gallery and the landscaping changes to East Princes Street Gardens required a solution to deliver the Christmas Market and to protect the new landscaping. Underbelly proposed a significant capital investment in a scaffold structure to protect the new landscaping in the gardens, significantly increase circulation space after concerns from previous years, and create a deliverable layout. The new structure also serves to increase the accessibility of the Christmas markets with more ramps and flat sections for those with a mobility or sensory impairment.

Underbelly agreed to meet these capital costs but sought the agreement of a two-year extension to the contract to allow them time to recover the capital investment. The Executive Director of Place, in consultation with the Convener and Vice-Convener of Culture and Communities Committee, agreed to a two-year extension under delegated authority due to time constraints. This decision was then reported to Culture and Communities Committee on 18 June 2019. It is acknowledged that the detailed design was not included in the Committee report.

From June onwards, the Council’s engineers assessed the structure to be built in Princes Street Gardens. This was to double-check the calculations and proposals made by Underbelly’s own engineers and to ensure that the structure was safe and would not cause any significant or structural damage to the new landscaping in the gardens. This process was completed on 12 October 2019.

The redevelopment of the Gardens by National Galleries of Scotland has faced several delays. This has resulted in some areas being incomplete when the Gardens were due to be occupied by Underbelly for Christmas. One of the worst affected areas was a steep bank close to the top path in the Gardens.

Due to the lack of completion of some sections of the works, Underbelly requested to move a section of the market from this steeper area to the area of the Gardens south of the railway line. This would allow this section a full growing season, the best chance to establish and increase crowd flow across the site as a whole.

After consultation with the Convener and Vice-Convener of Culture & Communities Committee, it was agreed to move elements of the market that were to be sited in this steepest section to an area on the south of the railway. This area had been used in previous years but only for storing generators and other plant.

The overall number of stalls has increased in the Gardens with the move to the south section. However, the area of useable, open circulation space has increased significantly, allowing visitors a more comfortable experience during busier periods.

 

Planning Permission and Building Warrants
Underbelly met with officers from Planning and Building Standards on 30 August to discuss permissions required for the structures and their respective layout in East Princes Street Gardens. A determination of what was warrantable was reached and accepted by all parties. Underbelly agreed to submit a Building Warrant application for all warrantable works within the Christmas Markets.

Planning permission was also discussed at that meeting as the existing permission had expired. Underbelly were told that they needed to apply for this. Underbelly stated that they would be making an application but would not be able to meet the timescales required for a full application to be in place before commencing their build on 18 October because, at that stage, there was no final layout plan as engineers from the Council and Underbelly were still concluding their final assessments of the scaffolding structure and any necessary amendments. This was concluded on 12 October and a planning application is now expected. The application will be assessed in line with the Planning Acts.

It is therefore appropriate to request a retrospective planning application. Underbelly have contacted the Council’s Planning Service to update on progress. In the meantime, an enforcement file has been opened by officers, who will monitor the situation.

 

Waverley Bridge
The Christmas Market has been a very popular attraction and getting busier every year; weekend attendance to the market regularly exceeds 100,000 per day (highest attendance last year was c. 124,000).

As a result of this popularity, special measures (additional stewards) had to be put in place at the crossing at the top of Waverley Bridge to manage the crowds at weekends last year to stop the public coming into conflict with live traffic.

Ongoing discussions are taking place between the Council, Underbelly and other partners over how best to ensure public safety whilst minimising disruption. This matter will be discussed with City Centre Councillors later this week.

 

Old Town/High Street – Edinburgh’s Hogmanay
There have been some issues with wider communications from Underbelly regarding the use of the Old Town and residents’ access. Underbelly have been reminded of the need for early and clear communication. For clarity, the High Street and Royal Mile are not being used for Hogmanay; it is only West Parliament Square, outside St Giles’ Cathedral. The High Street will remain open throughout and no residents or businesses on the Royal Mile will require passes to access their properties. There is a well-established protocol for access to property within the street party arena and Underbelly will be contacting those properties very shortly.

Update on the death at Fairmilehead Crossroads

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I feel proud that people in my Ward did all they could to help this man.

A report in the Evening News today suggests the tragic death at Fairmilehead crossroads on Thursday may be linked to an incident of so called “road rage”. I am sure everyone’s thoughts are with the family of the man that died.
I’d like to thank the emergency services for dealing with the incident. Spacial thanks must also go to those that attempted CPR to give the man the best possible chance of recovering.
I spoke to the reporter behind the article and I know he was surprised by some of the driving he witnessed in the area and the strength of feeling locally on the issue. Some of the comments I received in the 2-3 days after the incident:
  1. …traffic congestion has increased alarmingly over the year from The Charwood Restaurant to the lights at Fairmilehead Crossroads…
  2. … Because West to South (Biggar Road) cars are accelerating towards the junction, on a downward slope and turning towards the oncoming traffic it is surprising we don’t have more serious accidents…
  3. … Nearly every single day there are multiple near misses (and some not missed!) with horns blaring and brakes screeching and heated shouting matches…
  4. …My kids take their life in their hands every day crossing Biggar Road near the bypass, when they get off the number 4 bus. Cars coming off the bypass accelerate crazily up that stretch…
  5. …My son is 11 and should be independently walking to school, but the road is too busy/unsafe…
  6. …There’s no proper filters on these lights. I have to turn right every morning and the amount of angry people, despite you have your indicator on speed in front of the cars in the other lane. Cars blocking other cars in the morning and the speed of cars in this area is appalling…
  7. …I have personally witnessed appalling driving in this area and also across the city… 
  8. …I really feel for the family of the man who died. It is very surprising that there are not more accidents at this junction…
  9. …It’s very sad to hear that there was a death – and though it may not have been due to the traffic, it is only a matter of time. I have been going on about the speed limit on that road for years… …The First Minister has declared a climate emergency – we should be making all travel easier for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport and not motorists… 
  10. …there is a right filter at the crossroads for traffic citybound but the other two lanes are also on green. This means that anyone waiting to turn right coming from the city has to gauge when the lights have turned to red for the citybound vehicles. Any driver who is a visitor turning right from the city can be tempted to swing out when they see their set of lights turn to red, right across the oncoming traffic… 
  11. …I agree entirely with you that the speed limit should be reduced to 30, and be in force at Hillend… 
  12. …One issue that concerns me (and I am not a local resident) is the mismatch between some of the time scales (eg new lights) and the seriousness of the residents’ comments… 
  13. …I agree lower speed limits would help with safety and also support more sustainable active travel options. The main issue is however the sheer volume of traffic. Stand at that junction in the morning and or early evening and witness the ridiculous number of single occupancy cars… 
  14. …One issue that concerns me (and I am not a local resident) is the mismatch between some of the time scales (eg new lights) and the seriousness of the residents’ comments…
  15. …Going north, folk are often coming from the bypass – so their brains are still going at speed – and having two (going into three) lanes does nothing to encourage them to slow down. Then people are elbowing past each other to get through the junction: more often than not, people are cutting up the left lane to go straight on and get ahead of those in the middle lane. The driving is often very aggressive coming up to that junction. Even in the car I feel unsafe there… 
  16. …I have long avoided this junction because there is no right turn filter going into Oxgangs Road and because you are blinded by headlights as the traffic comes up from the by pass to the cross roads… 
  17. …I would also like to add a comment about the traffic situation. The bus stop at the foot of Biggar Road requires us to cross the road to get to our home at Swanston Drive. At certain periods of the day particularly this is now simply dangerous. The cars coming off the bypass often accelerate up towards the lights at Fairmilehead whilst the cars approaching the bypass speed down the Biggar Road. Lots of dodging of cars…  
  18. …The lines on the roundabout closest to Craigdon should be more clear about car positioning, especially south to north. At Fairmilehead the lack of a filter from driving south to turning West is ludicrously dangerous…
  19. …just to say I am 100% with you on reducing the speed, particularly given the schoolkids but also adults too cross to commute daily. There is a lot of pedestrians crossing daily. I think 30 is sensible…
  20. …The area around the Buckstone shops is an accident waiting to happen with car drivers doing crazy things including crossing 4 lanes to get into the parking facing the wrong way and double parking.For cyclists, achieving a right turn from Comiston road into any side street especially uphill…
  21. …You are so right about the crossroads at Fairmilehead and particularly the cars approaching the crossroads to go into Bigger rd are time after time accelerating through the red light…
  22. …I grew up in Winton and now live just down the road and I really care about the area. I have an elderly mum with dementia in Winton who crosses Biggar Rd daily and it worries me hugely. A pedestrian crossing there is much needed… 
  23. …I don’t think the problem is limited to those crossroads. I still worry about my 13yo crossing to the bus stop at Buckstone in the mornings (especially in the dark), and my 10yo doesn’t get anywhere near that road without an adult even though she has really good road sense. She would love to be able to go across to the newsagent with her friends! And it would be great if she could get used to crossing that road before high school…
  24. …The roundabout at the top of the slip road off the bypass would benefit from a mid white line being painted on it. Too often vehicles switch lanes while using the roundabout causing cutting in, this could certainly lead to frustration… 
  25. …May I also voice a plea to have the speed limit reduced to 30 mph- traffic from the bypass can come tearing down the road – if there are 2 lanes completely free of traffic I am afraid that residents particularly schoolchildren crossing the road will be even more in danger of being knocked over than they are now…
  26. …It’s a terrible road and I’m surprised something hasn’t happened before now…
  27. …At busy times there are few cars traveling through those lights at 40. So don’t see a speed limit change impacting that junction too much. A good turning filter could allow three lanes to move. It’s just a bust junction though…
I agree that there is a lot that could be done to make this stretch of road safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. This is what’s happening right now:
  1. The speed limit is under review (this will also look at “rat-running”). Despite opposition from other Councillors, I have argued that the Council should consult on reducing the limit to 30mph.
  2. Further parking restrictions are about to be implemented.
  3. The lights will be replaced over the next year or two to make the junction safer.
  4. A week or two ago I asked the Council if a case could be made for a pedestrian crossing after concerns were raised by a Winton resident.
So whilst this death may not have been caused directly by the road conditions, I am determined that the crossroads and the A702 is made safer for everyone. This is a wide road with wide footpaths, so there should be room for cars, bikes and pedestrians all to move safely.