Archive for May, 2011
Oh contrary Edinburgh. While the people of Leith Walk are (rightly) angry with the council for messing up their street (see comments on Ray’s recent ‘rant’) round the corner residents of the posh New Town are turning their neighbourhood into a tip all by themselves.
In fact they seem determined to prevent the council from keeping their streets neat and tidy. Up the West End, according to the Evening News, householders are manning the barricades to stop the council supplying communal wheelie bins which would keep their rubbish in the right place.
Good to know Auld Reekie gets priorities right: we let bankers away with daylight robbery but take to the streets to prevent the council delivering waste bins.
Black bin bags are so much more acceptable in the parts of town where properties fetch an eye watering price (even during the recession). To be fair, Edinburgh New Town is not the only urban area to resist the arrival of the wheelie. A quick online search brings up newspapers across the UK making rubbish puns about community campaigns opposing the wheelie bin. Sometimes they make jokes without realising it: the Wimbledon Guardian (as read on BBC Radio 4 News Quiz) reported a local councillor protesting “It is nonsense to say we are trying to bring wheelie bins in by the back door”.
In Edinburgh the argument seems to be that New Town dwellers couldn’t get the bins in by the back door or out the front door either. They simply have no room for bulky bins inside or outside their well proportioned Georgian buildings. And, oh dear, communal bins in a heritage site would be far too common.
So these fine flats and houses insist on putting their rubbish out in black bags for hungry foxes and gallous gulls to rip open in search of a ready meal (imagine their disappointment on finding underwear instead) and it gets spread all over the pavement. Lovely.
The May issue of the Broughton Spurtle reported a council plan to introduce a pilot scheme for waste collection – some bins, some (gull proof) bags, some communal skips. I feared my picture of the bra might become outdated before I got round to posting it but I needn’t have worried. It does look as if garbage guerrillas are intent on keeping up the fight. Its none of my business – unless of course my (frozen) council tax is helping to pay for the extra cost of picking up their rubbish each week. But I can’t help wondering what they did before the arrival of the black bags in the days when we all had dustbins.
May 30th, 2011
The morning after. Through my window I see a lampost spattered with red, orange and green and none of those colours will make much of a splash in the new Scottish Parliament. As a Labour supporter I take some comfort from the posters taped to our living room window. Malcolm Chisholm has survived what looks likely to become an SNP landslide.
Oddly, I can’t begrudge the successful party their celebrations. I remember the euphoria of that May morning in 1997 when strangers smiled at one another in the street. Despite a hangover (whisky and then bubbly as one Tory after another toppled) the New Labour dawn felt fresh and exciting.
Doesn’t feel like that this morning to us old Labour losers. The scale of the loss is a shock but not a complete surprise. Canvassing for Malcolm on the doorsteps of North Edinburgh, I heard Labour supporters comment on the appeal of Salmond as First Minister.
I am sure I was not the only one who was voting for Chisholm rather than Labour – not least because the former Minister for Health had the courage and integrity to defy the party line when it was pure bonkers. Labour would have gained respect and possibly public support if it had backed the SNP in their attempt to set a minimum price for alcohol.
The best Labour policy – investing in young unemployed – got lost in the noise about independence. But worst of all, Labour has lost the human touch. There is no vision to inspire, no language to uplift. In contrast Salmond’s party speak as if they believe in Scotland and the people who live in it.
A couple of years ago I heard Margaret Curran give a speech that was uncharacteristically passionate, full of warmth and sympathy for the deprived and marginalised members of her constituency. But she was speaking to a hall full of Labour supporters. In the coffee break I complimented her and asked why she didn’t speak like that to the outside world. Her reply was depressing. She said she knew she was among people who would agree with her. It would be more difficult to engage with the unconverted.
Will this be one of the ‘lessons to be learned’, to use the phrase of the morning? If anyone wants to know why Labour lost so many voters they could do worse than try the Voting Compass quiz which CSPP recommended to ‘undecided’ voters. Out of curiosity the other night I tried it and found if I followed my policy preferences I should be voting Green or SNP. I voted Chisholm.
But what happens to all those policies now? I remember how euphoria became despair. Labour has many lessons to teach the SNP. With luck they will also rediscover how to become an effective opposition. Scotland needs well informed and properly debated policy.
May 6th, 2011
Ray Perman takes a critical look at Leith Walk in this guest blog. With imagination and a little money it could become the most elegant and cosmopolitan street in Edinburgh. [Many local people agree, see the excellent comments at the end of the post]
There are a lot of reasons for despairing at the dysfunctional political leadership of City of Edinburgh Council, but the degradation of Leith Walk surely comes top of the list.
This wide and noble street was conceived as an elegant boulevard connecting the newly built Georgian New Town of Edinburgh with the prosperous and bustling burgh of Leith. William Stark, the 18th century architect and planner, commented on the “fine double row of elms” extending for 200 yards down the Walk. His colleague, William Playfair, who designed Leopold Place, just off the Walk on London Road, spoke of “the happy union of foliage and building.”
Despite two centuries of piecemeal development, there are still some fine buildings along the Walk, but the council has turned it into an urban clearway, so there is no incentive to stop and look. An excess number of garish yellow keep left signs are now the main feature of the street. What are they for? Does the council seriously expect that motorists would drive down the wrong side of the dual carriageway if they weren’t reminded every 25 yards?
The Walk is wide enough to have a broad central reservation with shrubs and trees – like the one which runs along the broader part of East Claremont Street. But what do we have instead? The cheapest, nastiest black rubber blocks, bolted together. If they weren’t ugly enough, they are flanked by unnecessary white lines, hatched on the road. For what? To deter motorists from parking in the middle of the road?
The whole effect is ghastly, but just think what Leith Walk could become. With imagination and a little money, it could again be an elegant thoroughfare with broad pavements, street cafés, trees and shrubs. It is the most multicultural street in Edinburgh and could also be the most cosmopolitan.
The Walk had to put up with two years of disruption while the street was torn up for the trams which – thanks to the council’s incompetence – will now probably never traverse it. It deserves better than the fate the council has decreed for it.
May 2nd, 2011