Saturday, 13 September 2014

I like Jim Sillars

Jim  Sillars is one of my constituents.

I like him.

Actually I agree with him on many issues.  His critical analysis of the failings of climate change policy is perceptive.  I agree with him that we have been very poorly served by banks and that the integrity of leadership in recent years has been appalling - and that there remains much to sort out. (And in passing, it is salutary to note the key role in the RBS debacle of senior SNP figures.)

But his statements yesterday reflect a dark, vindictive streak in parts of the Yes campaign.  It comes from the militant left of which Jim once was an active part.  It is the red mist which takes over when any perceived wrong emanates from a big business.  Those he accuses of scaremongering he threatens.

And the most alarming part was his claim at one point to be speaking for us all:
" . . . . us, the sovereign people of Scotland. "
Yet we see a ''them and us' approach laid bare.  The case is heavily based on us being victims of oppression rather than of a balanced recognition of the need to work with those who have a stake with us all in creating a great future.

The mood of  Jim's comments - the victimhood and veiled threats, make it more of a challenge to strike a generous and constructive tone on September 19th.

I am sure Jim will not be speaking for me on the morning of Friday 19th.

But I reckon I will still like him.

Friday, 12 September 2014

16% of Edinburgh's electorate have voted

Earlier in this referendum season I gave some figures of the number of voters and postal voters.

Here is an update.

Edinburgh has a current population of around 495,000 of whom 377,413 (76%) are on the electoral roll as eligible voters.

There are 81,648 postal votes.  Of these 62,310 have been returned.  That amounts to 76.3% of the total postal votes. Postal vote packs were sent out in two tranches - the first towards the end of August and the remainder on 8th September (after the final date for registration for postal votes).

So just over one in five (21.6%) of the 377,413 eligible voters have a postal vote. 

So we can see that 16.5% of the electorate have already cast their vote.

Do note that remaining postal voters can still take their vote to the polling station next Thursday. Get it in before then, I say in case you are called away or become ill. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

'Don't be shy, Give it a try. Can I interest you in the big issue'

I'm a bit late in posting this (or anything else the last few days).  It has just been very busy and there have been a few days out of town.

Sadly, John White, the big issue seller, whose pitch was the junction of Middle Meadow Walk with North Meadow Walk since 2006, died last week.  He had cancer and his last days were in the Western where he died aged 69.

I met him almost every morning he was there and he was regular and there was almost always some good chat.  He was a great ally in my war against fly posting, pointing out new posters to me and I still have and use the scraper he gave me several years ago to make it easier to remove posters.

A few months ago he told me of a move to a new pitch - George IV Bridge at the Royal Mile - but there was scaffolding at the time and there just wasn't the same clientele.  A few days later he was back in Middle Meadow Walk chatting to friends and calling out his trade mark cry - the title above.  It was a local he encountered who years ago challenged him to use such a call to create a memorable marketing impact.

More here.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Edinburgh voting figures

The following comes across my desk so I'm sharing it with you.

Postal vote packs sent out last week:  69,862

The number returned (total counted but not which way they have voted):
  • 28th August: 4,877
  • 29th August: 12,872
  • 1st September: 9,967
That is 39.7% of those issued in the first batch.  As I mentioned earlier there will be a smaller and final batch of postal votes posted out on 8th September.

Tomorrow is the last date to register to vote

Your registration to vote must be received by the end of tomorrow.  And if you want a postal vote for the referendum applications must be received by Wednesday 3rd (at 5pm).   Print off the form from here.

Although most will have received their postal vote papers, if you haven't it is likely to be with the second batch which will be posted out on or around 8th September.  The second batch will be of those who applied for a postal vote more recently.  The first and largest batch was for those who are regular postal voters.

More information here.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The vote is upon us

Referendum postal vote forms will be arriving through letterboxes from today and over the next few days.  All 69,862 of them!  Edinburgh has over 363,000 electors and that number is increasing day by day up to the registration cut off point.  If you have recently registered for a postal vote your postal vote may be sent out around 8th September in a second batch.

Turnout for Edinburgh for the Euro elections was 41.6%, an increase of 41.6% from the 2009 Euro election - and that was 7.6% above the Scottish average.

Just thought you would like to know a few statistics.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Priority parking moves closer

Priestfield and Nether Liberton are on the list for implementation of priority parking and I understand the timetable as set out below.

For Priestfield - at long last.  For Nether Liberton, I had expected this to be put on hold because of the low level of support but it is now going ahead.
  • This week: some preliminary marking of pavements and roadways will take place from this week
  • Late October: Permanent road markings to be laid down
  • Early November:  priority parking comes into fore which a short (maybe one week) period of grace applied.
Background information here and here.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Flying the Palestinian flag

Below is the full text of a comment which appears in a shortened version in the Edinburgh Evening News 25.8.14

"On Thursday as I made my way to the City Chambers, I noted that yet again a street on my route had the pavements obstructed by bins – unemptied from the previous day’s collection.   On my bike I bumped over a section of street surface worthy of a third world country.  As I arrived at the City Chambers I was mulling over what I would say on Gaza at the Council meeting.

The council leader had wisely decided to focus on humanitarian relief in the motion he had put before us but there was still the partisan couple of letters he wanted us to authorise him to send – one castigating the Israeli ambassador and the other expressing ‘solidarity’ with the people of Gaza.
". . . the one sided motion from the council leader is hardly the kind of rush to judgement local councillors in Edinburgh should be making."
The first issue in my mind was the selectivity.  I am moved by the suffering when I see homes destroyed and people killed or injured.  But what of over  190,000 reported killed in Syria; the barbarism of ISIS in Northern Iraq;  the 1.5million refugees facing critical life or death existence in Southern Sudan;  civil war in Libya; over 2,000 deaths in Gaza.  All of these have been widely reported.  Why only compassion for Gaza? 
The next issue is the context.  Does the leader not know that Israel, for all its faults, is a rare functioning democracy in the Middle East?  Does he not know anything of the terror of the thousands of rockets launched against civilian areas of Israel?  Or has he not seen the dramatic footage of the Indian TV crew earlier this month of a rocket being launched from the heart of a residential area of Gaza?  Or the existing threats to eliminate Israel? Or the BBC, Al Jazeera and New York Times articles pointing out that amongst claimed casualties there is a disproportionate number of young men and advising caution about treating the Hamas controlled casualty figures as mainly innocent civilians?  Perhaps some of these things are not clear because of the fog of war – but certainly this readily available information suggests the one sided motion from the council leader is hardly the kind of rush to judgement local councillors in Edinburgh should be making.
But the decision was duly taken to fly the Palestinian flag above the City Chambers in Edinburgh and to promote the DEC appeal for Gaza.  I don’t know for sure if the claims that DEC relief is channelled largely through Hamas control – regarded by some as a terrorist organisation comparable to ISIS – are verified.  But it is certainly a complex and muddy situation.

"The council leader’s empty excuse for refusing to broaden out the compassion in this way does him no credit. For him it is Gaza, Gaza, Gaza. Selective compassion shored up by a jaundiced view of international events."

Much better anyway would have been to support humanitarian relief to the crisis hotspots I mentioned above via Mercy Corps.  Its European HQ is in Sciennes and the Council has already established it as a favoured means of contributing to humanitarian relief.  The council leader’s empty excuse for refusing to broaden out the compassion in this way does him no credit.  For him it is Gaza, Gaza, Gaza.  Selective compassion shored up by a jaundiced view of international events.
And so it seems to be for his Labour and SNP colleagues in the administration who, along with the Greens and LibDems, voted to pronounce judgement on a complex and intractable conflict, fly the flag of one side and decline to show comparable compassion to others in terrible conflicts.
As I made my way home with sadness at the decisions taken, I passed along the same streets.  The waste was still uncollected and I cycled over the same potholes."
You can hear what Cllr Cameron Rose said in the debate last Thursday at this link Council meeting 21/8/14 here:

Gone! Holyrood Park Road advertising

After a lengthy saga, I am told the advertising hoardings outside the Commonwealth Pool and Pollock Halls have been removed.  Some of the complicated history is contained in previous posts:
For those not already aware I will post on the overturning of the decision of the Planning Committee to refuse the development of student accommodation at Lutton Place - now overturned by the Scottish Government Reporter.

Local fruit excels

My family's bramble ramblings is becoming an annual autumn report on this blog.  Last year was one of the most productive years for a long time.

I enjoyed an unexpected picking through the railings near Mayfield Gardens at the weekend.  Time to check the Innocent railway and southern slopes of Arthur's Seat.  Although it is still early season, there are plenty - as you can see below.

There is still time to register to vote

And you can still get a postal vote or a proxy vote. For the 18th September referendum the last date for registering is next Tuesday, 2nd September. 

If you are to be away you can get a postal vote or a proxy vote - getting someone else to vote on your behalf.  Here is the website for more details.  And here is more information.
The above information is for everyone.  As you might imagine, I'll be voting. . .

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Edinburgh WILL fly the flag

Yesterday I noted there was a move to fly the Palestinian flag. 

Initially the Labour and SNP leadership of the Council indicated they would not accept this - but at the last minute they changed their position and agreed to fly the Palestinain flag apparently as a 'gesture of support for the people of Gaza.'   Certainly it is only for one day and there will be the longer term appeal flag to enable/encourage contributions to the DEC fund for Gaza.  But there will be a letter of condemnation to the the Israeli ambassador in London.  There was little attempt to be non partisan or even to recognise the context of the events in Israel and Gaza - and scant regard for the other conflicts which are causing humanitarian suffering on an enormous scale.

I moved the counter motion which was, alas, defeated:  Edinburgh Council. . .
1. notes the appalling suffering associated with the death, injury and displacement of families in current conflicts which include:
a. Gaza
b. Syria
c. Iraq
d. Ukraine
e. South Sudan
2. recognises the desire of many in Edinburgh to contribute to the relief of such suffering
3. notes that Edinburgh already has strong links with Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian agency experienced and active in relieving suffering in disaster areas including most of the above current conflict areas
4. notes that the European Headquarters of Mercy Corps is in Edinburgh
5. resolves to fly an appeal flag which prominently features Mercy Corps appeal donation information to encourage generous giving for humanitarian relief in the above, and other, conflicts and disasters
6. agrees to promote actively the significance of the flag and the opportunity to give generously via Mercy Corps.
My comments are at this link (11 mins long)  A sad day for Edinburgh.

Note:  Mercy Corps provide humanitarian relief in, I think 40 countries.  Despite what the Council Leader claimed, it would have been a simple matter to promote a single number for donations for the majority of the places I have highlighted via Mercy Corps - instead of the single Gaza relief number.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Flying the flag

Tomorrow your councillors will be discussing a proposal to fly a Palestinian flag above the City Chambers in 'solidarity with the people of Gaza'.  I'm afraid that kind of campaigning and politicking on international issues doesn't excite me.  Especially where, with dreadful conflict and suffering in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, South Sudan as well as Gaza there are plenty of conflict hotspots.

Better would be flying a flag of a humanitarian relief agency with contact details enabling people to give generously.   And we have the European Headquarters of one such agency right here in the ward.  Mercy Corps is based in Sciennes and it is active in most of the current theatres of conflict.

Certainly, I have been moved to make a donation to them (along with another charity working in Iraq).    I just think that is rather a more appropriate response than making a onesided political gesture which picks sides in a complex Middle East conflict. 

And so the Conservative will move against the flag proposal tomorrow.

For more comments on this see the website of the Edinburgh Conservative councillors.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Jack and the WW1 memorial

Local historian and author Jack Alexander is fronting an appeal to improve the Hearts Memorial clock at Haymarket with an appeal to fund some historical inscriptions and improvements to the clock.  In his words:
"The memorial is sacrosanct, but since it’s been returned to the traffic island, to commemorate the centenary of the First World War we will be putting in some landscaping around it. Some of the slabs around it will be carved. It’s going to be very discreet. It’s not going to be grand or fussy.“We decided that it would be a good idea to put some simple carving into the paving slabs around it, and also to add a very low railing around the paving at the bottom of the memorial to secure wreaths that are placed during the main service in November."
All very appropriate in this 100th anniversary year. More here.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Ticking off for Tikka

I've been away for a few days.  Normal service with more regular local posts will now resume.

In April the Tikka Masala Indian Takeaway in the Pleasance was closed down for a couple of weeks because an 'infestation' and other problems.

See the details here in this report.