Why Lothian Buses must do more to support families and wheelchair users.


It feels like Edinburgh is at a turning point where support for families and wheelchair users is concerned. We recently learned via the Evening News about the Council Leader’s wonky justification for closing public toilets and the impact that cut will have on families, those with a disability and people facing health problems. Now we read that Lothian Buses’ “jumbo bus” will not have the space for buggies and wheelchairs that far smaller vehicles have (report 13/11/18).

Indeed, I know that many parents in my ward are concerned that too much of Lothian Buses’ fleet already does not have a space for both a wheelchair and a buggy. This is despite the fact that Lothian Buses boast on their website that “many of our newest buses have an additional space for a buggy as well as the wheelchair space”.

I am therefore disappointed that although their newest bus is 50% bigger than normal, it will only offer a single space for a buggy or wheelchair.

It feels like the UK’s best bus operator has taken a giant step backwards with how this jumbo bus has been fitted out.

With 79% of drivers admitting that many of their journeys could be easily taken on foot, via bike or on public transport, as a city we should be making it easier for everyone to take the bus – particularity vulnerable groups.

As someone who is passionate about expanding public transport use, I would urge Lothian Buses to rethink this decision and provide more support to wheelchair users, parents and grandparents.

I’d rather Edinburgh was known as a city that went the extra mile to support families and wheelchair users, than one that closed accessible toilets and made bus use more difficult.


Briefing on Panmure St Ann’s Inclusive Homelessness Service

Panmure St Ann's Education Service. Head Teacher Angelina Lombardo in the cafe. Pupils hard at work in the classroom and chhilling in the cafe.Pic Neil Hanna


Below is a briefing I received on the above.

The average age of death for someone who is homeless and has complex needs is 47 years old compared to 77 years old for the general population.

The Health and Social Care Partnership through its ‘Inclusive Edinburgh Board’ is working with partners to improve the life-chances, health and well-being of homeless people with complex needs for whom, despite significant resource allocation, outcomes are mostly poor.

In support of this work, the integration of primary care (Edinburgh Access Practice), social work and housing (The Access Point) is taking place.

Edinburgh Access Practice and The Access Point are currently operating from two sites with poor quality accommodation.  Both sites are in the heart of the city (Spittal Street and Leith Street) and sit alongside commercial premises and the tourist industry.

The services have been looking for suitable accommodation for over 3 years and are planning to move to Panmure St Ann’s, an accessible city centre location with a single point of access, where they will be co-located early 2020.

The inclusive homelessness service will support people who live on the streets, those who are in temporary accommodation or sofa-surfing centrally, therefore Panmure St Ann’s is a suitable location.

The Edinburgh Access Practice previously operated successfully for 12 years from a location a few hundred yards from Panmure St Ann’s (until 3 years ago).

Panmure St Ann’s is owned by City of Edinburgh Council and will be leased to NHS Lothian.  NHS Lothian has committed to investing 2.8 million pounds in refurbishing the building to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.


The inclusive homelessness service
The service will operate from 9-6pm Monday to Friday. It will not be open after 6pm or at weekends.

A GP practice will be at the centre of the service which will also consist of housing officers, social workers, psychiatric nurses, practice nurses and administration staff.  Our third sector partners (Cyrenians, Streetwork) and Edinburgh University students will also be based in and support the practice.  University students will undertake research, support the service to implement and evidence best practice and work towards becoming a ‘Centre of Excellence’.

The service will be a one stop shop and will support people to:

  • Improve and manage their physical and mental health
  • Reduce harm caused by substance use
  • Access suitable accommodation
  • Maintain their accommodation

An appointment system will be in operation but occasionally the service will see people outwith these arrangements for a range of reasons.

The service will not operate a needle exchange.

The integrated service will focus on building effective relationships with people who struggle to engage, taking account of their past experiences in the way it operates, and supporting behavioural change.

A core group of around 350 people with complex needs are currently accessing services provided by The Access Point and the Edinburgh Access Practice.


Update on the planning process
This is at an early stage.

As this is not is not a major application, statutory consultation is not required.  However, as good practice the Health and Social Care Partnership/NHS Lothian is committed to consulting with the local community, including stakeholders such as local businesses.

The building is listed, in a conservation area and a world heritage site.  As well as a Planning Application, there will also be a Listed Building Consent application.

Formal notification will be done by CEC Planning on receipt of the application. Neighbours and others have the right to object on legitimate ‘planning’ grounds.

In terms of indicative timescales, it is likely a planning application would be made late January 2019.

My Answer to Callum on Smoking & Drinking


Many thanks for your letter – I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply.

The damage smoking and drinking does to our bodies and our country is huge, so I am glad to read you are concerned about it too. When I was 10 I had a Superman poster like the one in the envelope (see below) on my bedroom wall – it told me all I needed to know about smoking. Do you like the poster?

We know that roughly 4 out of every 20 adults in the UK smoke – that’s over 9 million people. Tobacco smoking causes an estimated 115,000 deaths in the UK per year. Around 10,000 of these deaths are due to “second hand smoke” – this is where people breath in the fumes from other people’s smoking. The smoking ban in public places means that most “second hand smoke” is now encountered in homes or sometimes in cars. Ask your family if they know someone who has died or been ill due to smoking.

Before the 2006 smoking ban, it was possible to smoke in buses, cafes, cinemas and trains – can you imagine how bad that would be! Think about all that second hand smoke! Ask older people in your family if they can remember what that was like and how their clothes smelled afterwards.

The Council does not have the power to stop the sale of tobacco, but it does have a duty to make people healthy and happier. On smoking, the plan is for over the next few years to educate young people about how silly it is to smoke. By 2034 the aim is to cut smoking to just 1 in 20 young people at the most. Do you think that’s enough?

Although almost everyone knows smoking is very bad for them, most think alcohol is not so bad – but it still does cause over 7,000 deaths per year! Because alcohol changes the way people think and act, it causes other problems too. It’s estimated that there are over 500,000 incidents of violent crime per year in the UK where the victim believes the offender to be under the influence of alcohol. Ask your family if they know about any of these crimes.

Even a small amount of alcohol is bad for you, that’s why pregnant women are asked not to drink as it may harm the baby. For people that do drink, doctors say they should have no more than 6 drinks per week and that these should be spread over a few days. Do you think people should drink alcohol if doctors say it’s not safe?

The Council can’t stop the sale of alcohol, but it can make sure the people who sell it follow certain rules. An important one is not selling it to children who are under 18 years old. In this envelope (see below) is a sign we gave to shops about this a week or two ago. What do you think about the sign?

Not drinking alcohol and smoking will help you stay healthy. Two other things you can do is eat healthy food and do lots of exercise. I know you don’t smoke or drink alcohol, but do you eat healthy food and exercise when you can? I hope so!

Thanks again for your letter. I hope my answers have helped you at least a little.




Why my Humza Yousaf poll was a mistake.


Late yesterday evening I got around to tracking down reports I had seen earlier in the day  that Humza Yousaf had (apparently) been inconsistent in explaining why he became politically active. In one interview he had  cited the 9/11 attacks and in an earlier one he gave the Iraq War as a reason (2 not unconnected things IMHO).

In a move which I accept was cynical, I created a Twitter poll to highlight this. My decision to do this was not based on his or my race.

I woke this morning to find a number of people genuinely found my survey offensive. Offending anyone was not my intention – particularly Humza Yousaf.

I can see that placing the survey on Twitter without the context of the two arguably contradictory interviews was a mistake.

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Context is key.

Clearly, Humza Yousaf is not above criticism, but I should have thought more about his race and faith (and how others too often choose to use this against him) before triggering the poll.

I have therefore deleted the poll and I am more than happy to meet with Humza Yousaf to discuss it.

Let me be clear – this is an unreserved apology.

PS I have been accused of destroying the evidence, so  here it is:





Edinburgh’s nationalists are putting their party before our capital.


Putting their party before our capital – Steve Cardownie (left) & Adam McVey (right) 

In his most recent attack on myself and Cllr Gordon Munro, Steve Cardownie has sought to deliberately avoid the point by putting words in our mouths. Indeed, alert readers will note his column was full of opinion but lacked any direct quotes from either myself or Cllr Munro.

The only point we make is about leadership. We strongly feel that the City of Edinburgh Council deserves to have a leader that stands up for its interests rather than one that is simply an apologist for the Scottish Government.

Specifically, we feel that the Council Leader, SNP Councillor Adam McVey, should live up to his pledge to “oppose austerity in all its forms”. He has, however, so far only shown a willingness to enable it.

In a section of his most recent “Leader’s Report” entitled “Change for the Better” McVey boasts about how the Council has “saved” £240m since 2012. He then goes on to urge Edinburgh to be “forward thinking” and “embrace” the next round of brutal cuts our capital faces – a further £106m.

Let’s not forget, McVey has refused to rule out cuts to classroom assistants and head teacher funding in the forthcoming budget.

All we ask is that McVey stands up for Edinburgh and tells his SNP party elite in Holyrood that Edinburgh deserves a better deal. He needs to tell them that the days of them choosing to triple Tory austerity and pass it on to councils are over.

Steve Cardownie knows this is the only point we make. He knows this is not about personal ambition. He knows the Labour Group are united in calling for Edinburgh to be fairly funded. Just like McVey, however, Cardownie chooses to put the SNP before the interests of our city.

It’s time for the SNP in Edinburgh to oppose “austerity in all its forms”.

clipping2 (5)

When first made SNP Leader, Sandy Howat promised to make his party a far more assertive partner within the council’s ruling coalition as he bids to put the “independence question” at the heart of City Chambers business. In response to the 2015/16 budget cut, however,  in a press release he told the SNP Government that the “harsh reality is that this will translate to real job cuts that hit real families, in real communities throughout our capital city. Everyone will be hurt by this”.


Below is a joint response from to Steve Cardownie’s column from myself & Cllr Gordon Munro.

Your columnist’s concerns for the Capital Coalition focuses on the wrong people. Even those who stood under the SNP banner last year are not happy. Indeed, he ignores the fact that three councillors have left the SNP since last May – two of them due to key decisions the group made. Furthermore, discipline is such that the group has just enrolled its third Whip. He deliberately ignores the fact the SNP Scottish Government have given a bigger cut to Councils (7.1%) than the Scottish Government have received from Westminster (1.3%).

Once again he ignores the fact that the coalition agreement states “ The partnership will campaign against austerity in all its forms and will lobby both the Westminster and the Scottish Government to ensure that local services are adequately funded.”

As Labour Councillors, we are working end austerity and call on others to do the same.

However, there are those in the Council who are content to remain silent in the face of the funding crisis which is set to have a significant impact of our schools. Indeed, as your columnist makes clear, there are even those that view opposing cuts to education in our capital as “openly attacking the Scottish Government”.

In 2015 when the nationalists were led by former Councillor Sandy Howat the group put city before party. In response to the budget cut that year in a press release he told the SNP Government that the “harsh reality is that this will translate to real job cuts that hit real families, in real communities throughout our capital city. Everyone will be hurt by this”.

This is the message we are sending to the SNP Government again in order to oppose “austerity in all its forms”.

Ediburgh’s Bike Hire Scheme – Is a bit of joined up thinking needed?


Scott On Bike

Me on one of the bikes prior to the launch.  

Eddie Tait from the excellent Boardwalk Beach Club in Cramond has a bit of a point when he said he was “stunned” after being asked for £3,000 to host Edinburgh’s bike hire scheme outside his award winning diner (Report, 15/10/18).

I have only heard good things about the scheme. Yes, it was maybe a mistake to let a fast food company sponsor the bikes but apart from that I think most people see it as a wholly positive step. Indeed, it must be good as most of Edinburgh’s political parties appear keen to take credit for it from Labour’s Lesley Hinds.

However, the aim must be bigger than having a bike hire scheme for the sake of it, or to compare ourselves with other cities. We have to think about how the scheme can be used to do much more than get us from A to B.  I’d suggest four key aims should drive the future of the scheme.

Inclusion – We have to use the scheme to encourage people from deprived areas to live healthier and happier lives. Right now, not one single docking station is in a deprived area. Bizarrely, the station at the City Chambers is the one in the lowest area of deprivation.


The table shows the SIMD data for each station location – SIMD16 Decile 1 is the most deprived area (50% of Edinburgh is 7 or better), but no station location scores below 4. Government anti-poverty strategy tends to focus on Decile 1 and 2.    

Economy –We must use the bikes to drive our economy by using them to get tourist out the city centre and to places like Colinton and Cramond.


Apart from Portobello, the stations are limited to central Edinburgh. Edinburgh University accommodation is well linked to the main campuses, but Napier & Heriot-Watt are not connected. Scottish Government Offices are also well served. Tourists don’t appear well served – even linking to Morningside, Haymarket & the Botantic Gardens would not have been (and still are not) a huge leap. 

Active Transport – We must use the scheme to encourage people out of their cars. They should be a stepping stone to full bike ownership. In a city like Edinburgh, why can’t my son use his bus pass to hire the bike? Why are none of the stations west of Stockbridge or south of Edinburgh University?

Better Infrastructure – Parts of Edinburgh have some fantastic cycle lanes. With more people cycling, I hope they will demand fantastic cycle lanes right across this city.

That’s my strategy, but the question is what are Just Eat Cycles basing their plans on? I asked them, and they said “as we are in the early days of the scheme, we will be expanding where we can”.

I fear some joined up thinking is needed.