Recently in Edinburgh Council Category

The conservative case for trams.

| | Comments (1)
bluetram.jpgIn October Matt Lewis reviewed "Moving Minds; Conservatives and Public Transportation", a book co-authored by Weyrich and Lind, two very senior American conservatives, one of whom cut his political teeth on a public transport campaign.

Typically, as the review says, the case for better public transport is made by us tofu-eating "liberals", not hawks and military strategists. 

But they note that transport in America has been anything but a free market. Socialised freeways (note to Democrats and American Greens: this phrase may come in handy) have competed with overtaxed mass transit schemes.

Furthermore, the blue case for trams goes,* this car-based economy has spawned burbs, a lifestyle which weakens communities, and made us (like them) dependent on foreign oil. Rail, tram and subway lines, conversely, provide certainty to businesses to grow near stops, something a new bus route can't do.

Just because they're probably wrong on so many other things doesn't make these arguments any less persuasive, even though the review doesn't even mention climate change or other traditional environmental issues. There's a film interview with Lind here which does, though. His view, expressed in it, is that even mentioning those issues presses conservatives' "campaign against" button. The graph of public support shown in the film is also particularly striking.

I'm with Kenny Macaskill. A well-implemented tram network "will be the basis upon which Edinburgh can grow and flourish. It is after all the physical arteries that are the lifeblood of the community. Better therefore to take our time to get it right than progress at pace and repent at leisure. Moreover in transport like most other things in life you get what you pay for. Do it on the cheap and you'll get the quality it merits."

Nationalists, Greens, Lib Dems, Labour folk, conservatives, everyone gets it. Well, apart from those whose party in local government have undermined the work they're supposed to be delivering. Callum: get on board.

* yes, I know Americans have gotten their red and blue mixed up, but there's no need to get dragged down by them.


| | Comments (3)
nottinghamtrams.jpgAs Edinburgh's spectacularly inept Liberal/SNP Council does its simultaneous best to build and block the trams, the anti-tram hysteria is approaching the levels seen in Nimbyist campaigns against wind turbines.

The latest incident to get the tramophobes frothing is an accident in Dublin where a tram and a bus collided. Sixteen people were injured, three seriously. It's clearly bad news, although it's not yet clear whether the tram or the bus was at fault, or even a third party. 

My dear deluded friend Calum knows already. He simply checked his ideology-o-meter, which is stuck on "Blame the Trams for Everything". Let's assume he's right in this case, though, simply for comparison.

How do the risks from tram accidents of this sort compare to the risks associated with the SNP's overwhelmingly preferred form of transport, the car?

They're curiously reluctant to tell us. SNP Ministers are so quiet about it that their summer press release on road safety managed not even to include the headline figure, just a percentage change. I wonder if this reticence can survive today's debate in the Chamber on road safety. I got the numbers, though, by turning to the Record.

And they're pretty shocking. In an average week, Scotland's roads see five deaths and close to three hundred injuries. Every nine hours, year-round, more people are injured on Scotland's roads than were injured in this accident in Dublin.

But is this incident unusual for the Luas, the Dublin trams, or are they a regular deathtrap as Calum would have us believe? They've been running since 2004 and Wikipedia reports just one fatality over those five and a half years. If there had been any more I'm sure Calum would have edited the page accordingly.

Let's look at another cost the tram-haters seem oblivious too. Pollution from road traffic kills even more each year than the accidents. The UK figures from last year are roughly 2,600 from accidents and 4,000 from pollution. And don't even start me on the climate consequences of their love affair with the motorway.

Every time I see the shocking chaos the Liberal/SNP administration have visited on Edinburgh it makes me furious. The Nats are mismanaging this scheme, then campaigning against their own chaos, and all the while frantically denying any responsibility on the doorsteps.

Their incompetence is putting people off public transport, while their Ministers allocate billions of pounds of taxpayers' money to support various unsustainable roads schemes. I've always assumed all the other parties here were equally out of touch on transport, but I'm not sure that stands up any more.
trevorsfinger.jpgEven in such a steep economic decline, there are always silver linings. The demise of the utterly unsuitable Caltongate project could be one of them. The last Labour administration (left) was curiously close to the developers, the newish SNP/Liberal administration loves them, and SNP Ministers weren't going to break the habit and stick up for local residents. Not on a planning issue.

However, with only the Greens and Margo opposing the scheme either in the City Chambers or Parliament, it's taken the market to deliver victory. With Mountgrange in administration as of today, the only risk (flagged in that article) is that the directors will buy the scheme back from Deloitte and try to revive it. I doubt it'll wash.

There'll be a street party on the High St if this is confirmed. With the centre of the city no longer under the shadow of the bulldozer, mostly thanks to the hard work of Sally, Julie and others from Save Our Old Town, perhaps we could all turn to the matter at hand: how to do something constructive with the part of the site that was the old bus station. The Council should start with proper and long overdue consideration of S.O.O.T.'s proposals.

Update: Apparently the bank calls its loan to Mountgrange "a toxic asset". Shame they didn't notice the toxicity a little earlier..

A good Green win.

| | Comments (0)
My old friend and stalwart Green councillor Steve Burgess just persuaded the City of Edinburgh Council to back his proposals on residents' parking permits. On average, his scheme will reduce the cost of parking in the city, which neatly undermines the usual Clarkson-lite frothing against this kind of measure, while providing real financial incentives to Edinburgh residents to cut their pollution.

The so-called Association of British Drivers, who are presumably as representative as the Taxpayers' Alliance (click that link!), argued that the Council should abide by the results of the consultation. They presumably were not expecting that respondents would be three to one in favour of the Green proposals, and the Council has now indeed honoured that result.

Some residents will pay just £15 a year, those with the least polluting vehicles and who live in the outer areas, while the worst offenders will pay £320 a year to park their behemoths in the town centre. In the grand scheme of things, it's a very moderate measure, I reckon.

Anyway, other than being delighted about a Green win, this is an opportunity to post a pic of the current electric vehicle I've got my eye on. It's the 100% electric and 100% eccentric Aptera: the thinking man's Sinclair C5..

tramedinburgh.jpegYesterday certain parties got very excited here and started claiming that the Edinburgh tram project was about to be scrapped. Journalists here naturally thought this would be a huge story, and ran around frantically trying to find out the truth. 

The spin then softened to "Line 1B is under threat". This then became one piece in the Evening News with a headline which wasn't substantiated in the copy. 

Shirley-Anne Somerville makes a big play to be the Nats' environmentalist representative in the capital, but like most of the rest of her party she's clearly closer to the motoring lobby. Line 1b would be "sheer lunacy", she says. Yup, imagine an urban public transport system that covers more of the city. Madness, I tells ya. Oh, except her researcher's had to come clean to the BBC: her press release was entirely unsubstantiated.

The bottom line is that an SNP/Liberal local authority is failing to deliver the trams properly. One half of the adminstration never wanted them, and sabotage is suspected. The other half wanted them, but in a half-hearted manner. It's like hitching a lame donkey to either end of a wagon and hoping they'll take you somewhere. 

Imagine trying to deliver a massive public project with Councillors overseeing your work who want you to fail, who call for your resignation over their decisions, and who leak anything, however feeble, that goes against the project? No wonder the staff are leaving. The mystery is why the Nats in particular aren't worried about taking the blame should something actually go wrong with the project.

Also, what is specifically wrong with SNP/Liberal coalitions? Edinburgh: incompetent, arrogant, vainglorious. Fife: service-cutting, bridge-lobbying. Aberdeen: so massively incompetent that they risk being nationalised.

It strikes me that SNP and Liberal councillors are like Baileys and Guinness. Pretty unpleasant apart, but truly revolting when mixed. (if you like either drink, please imagine some alternative combination that curdles)

Caltongate disgrace.

| | Comments (0)
caltongatedemo.jpgEdinburgh Council's Development Committee today discussed Caltongate again, and duly ignored both UNESCO and the Scottish Green Party. At least we're in good company. 

The Council stuck to their untenable position, and this abomination is being forced through despite complete local opposition and despite the threat to remove World Heritage status. There's even an EU complaint pending, but this lot are impervious to reason.

The only person speaking sense was Green Councillor Steve Burgess, whose motion to hold the decision until UNESCO have visited failed because not a single other councillor on the Committee was prepared to second it. 

If you want a strange illustration of what the anger looks like, incidentally, check out this Evening News article. Three comments approved, then nine hundred and ninety-seven rejected. It looks like a vast amount of thoroughly legitimate swearing has gone on here, directed no doubt at the complacent councillors from the four larger parties.

Anyway, two days ago Robin Harper, Margo MacDonald and Shirley-Anne Somerville wrote to John Swinney, who is now the last person who can save the heart of historic Edinburgh. I've been critical of Shirley-Anne over this (second letter here), much to Malcolm's annoyance. Fair play, though, she signed up to the letter, and hopefully Swinney will listen to her. But if she couldn't even persuade her local councillor colleagues to back Steve's motion, is there much hope?

Ahoy there.

| | Comments (0)
combo.jpgThe bus brought Scotland's successful Olympic medal winners down past Parliament today, and everyone was there, the Save Meadowbank protesters, the general public who took Save Meadowbank placards in large numbers, the media, and politicians like Tavish Scott, whose Liberal colleagues in Edinburgh are behind the demolition alongside their SNP partners.

Some of the media picked up that this was the big story. Others buried it or ignored it altogether. At least I didn't see Jenny Dawe or Steve Cardownie, the prime suspects in the Case of the Missing Cycle Track, lording it up on the bus. That would probably have led to an egging. Or at least to a lot of angry bicycle-bell-ringing.

Triple gold!

| | Comments (0)
savemeadowbank.jpgThis Olympics have broadly passed me by. I don't think they should have been given as a prize to a totalitarian government, and I don't care either way about the Saltire vs Union Jack nonsense that others have taken an interest in. 

Also, the table tennis never seems to be on.

However, yesterday saw Chris Hoy take his third gold, and in turn three Edinburgh councillors, Liberal, SNP & Tory, displayed world class double standards. They put out congratulatory "emergency" motions, attempting to associate themselves with his success.

How can we mark Hoy's sporting achievements properly, one asked? How about listening to him when he campaigned against the demolition of the velodrome at Meadowbank, where he trained? Ah, no, all three councillors were too busy supporting the demolition, which will allow more houses to be built (good timing!) and more money to be diverted into council coffers.

Chris put up a new video appeal to save Meadowbank yesterday, which shows how the Council have neglected these facilities. The Save Meadowbank campaign has a good website, and you can sign the petition here. The Herald gave the story due prominence, but the Scotsman missed it

But what are these councillors thinking? How dare they try to wrap themselves in the flag (whichever one suits them) and gloss over their extraordinary acts of civic vandalism? Hypocrisy is clearly a team event, and the three of them yesterday claimed the gold medal.

More trams please.

| | Comments (4)
constitutionsttram.pngSome people have got a real bee in their bonnet about trams. By "some people" I predominantly mean the SNP. I got into a constructive debate about this with Jeff at SNP Tactical Voter, and realised there's a lot of misunderstanding out there. 

Let's address some of their concerns, drawing on an article by Kenny Macaskill in 2000, in which he explains why we should all back trams, not the guided busway.

But we've got buses already..
True, we do, and Edinburgh's buses are about the best of the lot, given that the Council sidestepped the worst of de-regulation and retained control of the buses. (declaration of interest: my old man was LRT's general manager during much of the 1980s)

However, as I pointed out in that debate with Jeff, trams appeal to a much wider audience than buses. People who (unreasonably, in my view) look down their noses at buses are happy to take the sleek, efficient tram. For a comparison, consider attitudes to the train versus the humble coach. The evidence is clear: light rail is six times better at getting people out of their cars than buses are. 

There are still some parts of the city inadequately served by buses, and some common routes across town that you need two buses to do. Trams will give Lothian Buses the opportunity to do that. 

"Instead let us recognise that at the start of [the 21st century] the route ahead for the City of Edinburgh is a light rail network that adds to both existing and reopened lines and that compliments and dovetails with other current and future modes of travel." - Kenny Macaskill

My dear pal Calum Cashley has particular anxieties about safety, and when he talks about trams he tends to use accident photos. I suspect he was taken on a Blackpool tram as a child and dropped his stick of rock onto the floor. Nevertheless, what is the safety record?

In 2007, the Office of Rail Regulation recorded a single death on Britain's tramways, and that was a suspected suicide on the Sheffield network. So no accidental deaths whatsoever. (see table A6 of this substantial pdf)

In contrast, there were almost 3,000 deaths on Britain's roads. Now, obviously, there are a lot more passenger-kilometres on the roads, but still, I know where I'd feel safer.

Trams aren't green - they run on coal and nuclear power
This is the most spurious of all. As you'd expect, I believe energy efficiency and massive investment in renewables can fulfill all our energy needs. And then the trams will run on clean energy. Until buses go electric, they'll always pump pollution out in town centre, less than the equivalent number of cars, but still worth tackling.

Even using the current power generation mix, trams emit just 65g of CO2 per passenger kilometre, compared to 89.1g for buses. The Nats' beloved cars stick out 182.2g, for contrast. (BBC figures)

The lines are inadequate
Agreed. Line 3 will make a huge difference, if there's ever the political will to build it. And more should follow that, too. Trams work best as a network, and while they're starting in a sensible way, the improvements will ramp up as the network grows.

"Bit by bit the network can and will be extended." - Kenny Macaskill

Trams are expensive
Sure, there's a cost to building trams, currently estimated at £512m, and that's less than an eighth of the £4.2bn the SNP propose to waste on a replacement for the entirely repairable Forth Road Bridge.

"[A light rail network] will be costly and it will take time. However this is a network not just for a few years but for many generations to come. It will be the basis upon which Edinburgh can grow and flourish. It is after all the physical arteries that are the lifeblood of the community. Better therefore to take our time to get it right than progress at pace and repent at leisure. Moreover in transport like most other things in life you get what you pay for. Do it on the cheap and you'll get the quality it merits." - Kenny Macaskill

The construction causes congestion
Again, true, it does. I think the Council could have handled this much better, and paid more for overtime to get the job done quicker. Much of town, especially around Leith Walk, is virtually impassable for much of the day. But it'll pass. As Kenny noted before me, we do need to move quickly on this project.

"Time is of the essence as the difficulties mount and the traffic flows continue to increase. It is not enough to simply bemoan that Edinburgh has become a victim of its own economic success. Action is needed in view of the problems that are arising and the timescale for construction." - Kenny Macaskill

Edinburgh simply doesn't need trams
The Nats' shift since 2000 is poor politics for the longer term, and an abject failure of vision. If I were in the SNP, single-mindedly focussed on independence, I'd want to paint an aspirational picture of Edinburgh as a modern European capital. Wouldn't you?

"The vision for Edinburgh has to be to aspire to be a truly Capital City. That means to have the public transport networks taken for granted in other European Capitals such as Copenhagen and Helsinki." - Kenny Macaskill

Thanks Kenny. I couldn't agree more.

disaster.jpgSo the developers have admitted they offered the Council a share in the profits purely to make sure this abomination went through.

Mountgrange bought some council-owned land around the site it owned, a former bus garage, which was due to be developed. The council will receive a small share of the profits from the site. 'It was done to make sure the council didn't sell us short,' says Berry. 'It only has a passive involvement.' (Property Week)

As the article notes, though, this is also the reason why the project will have to come to Ministers for approval, and why campaigners are hopeful a full public local inquiry will be called. The role of the SNP will be vital. Their local MSPs are campaigning against it, but their councillors are voting for it. Classic Liberal-type behaviour: perhaps the local coalition is having that effect on them?
donald trump.jpgSo The Donald's plan to trash the Balmedie dunes will go to an inquiry. Great news for the community, although we will wait and see whether they choose Jack Nicklaus or Sam Torrance to oversee the inquiry.

Salmond's on record as saying they'd abide by an Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route inquiry rejection of the road, and hopefully the same applies here.

Patrick asked the question, and John Swinney answered it (I think) for Glenn Campbell. I'll see in a minute. The last lot had a shocking record on this kind of issue.

However, this also makes it much harder for Edinburgh's sleazy decisions over Caltongate to remain unchallenged. The local campaigners agree, and it's hard to see any inquiry there not demonstrating to a national audience the scale of opposition, the absurdity of the current plan, and the dubious financial practices of Labour in particular over this issue.

Mountgrange backed Labour

| | Comments (0)

trevorfinger.jpgOf course they did. What else could I assume when, back in 2006, I got hand-delivered "Vote Trevor" leaflets late one night, bundled with "Caltongate to save Edinburgh" propaganda?

However, now it's in the Times that £4000 was provided to Labour by Mountgrange, which they then spent on a champagne reception. Ah, takes me back to when "champagne socialist" was something Labour hacks used to find hurtful..

Image taken from the Independent Republic of the Canongate - thanks!

Oh, the "you lose some" bit..

| | Comments (0)
disaster.jpgThat referred to this story. Greens back local community. Liberals back grossly inappropriate development. No change there. 

So the development gets the go-ahead, for now. If you want to help on this one, talk to these people - Save Our Old Town. Dedicated, hard-working, principled, community-minded activists. No wonder the Liberals ignored them.

So is this one over? Not if we can do anything about it. 

Your Links At Last


Other Politics



Friends and Stuff I Like

If I've forgotten to link to you, let me know. If I don't want to link to your blog I'll pretend I never got your email.

The party's site of which I am rather proud

Along with Jeff (formerly SNP Tactical Voting) and Malc (formerly In The Burgh), I now co-edit Better Nation, a group blog. Stuff will still appear here, but more will be there. Better Nation

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Edinburgh Council category.

Economics is the previous category.

Energy is the next category.