People at the School talk about winding down for the summer holidays, as usual however I find myself winding up rather than down. It has to have been two of the busiest weeks I have ever had. I hardly know where to start! First we have a new excellent Labour group leader - Andrew Burns. Wendy Alexander has resigned and we have started the process of electing a new leader at the Scottish Parliament. If all of this wasn't enough to be going on with, at the local level we have the disastrous announcement that Tesco is closing the Wester Hailes branch. Local people are still angry at the decision of B&Q to relocate to Hermiston Gate from Longstone and Gorgie. People of this area already know they find it hard to get to Hermiston Gate either by foot , bus or in fact car as if you go out to the by-pass you have to go all the way to the end , round the roundabout and all the way back just to get in! Vulnerable people and people with mobility problems will have real difficulty getting to the new store if Tesco decides to close the one in Dumbryden and open a large one in Hermiston Gate instead.
Meetings... a new record for my time at the Council - 12hours 20mins for the full Council last Thursday. I thought I was seconding an uncontentious motion to hold a reception to mark the contribution made to the city for over 30 years by the Gorgie Dalry Gazette and West Edinburgh Times. These papers were recently closed by the Lib Dem / SNP Administration and they also blocked an attempt by the South West Neighbourhood Partnership to get them started again. So much for the localisation agenda! No real reason has ever been given for withdrawing their funding and certainly without a doubt in the areas they served they were regarded as a community created, independent voice keeping people informed of what was happening in the area. This role made them a vital part of the local community and their loss is going to be deeply felt for some time. An example of this is the Gorgie Dalry Festival which is normally publicised in the Gorgie Dalry Gazette devoting a whole centre spread to photos. This year as a result in spite of the Community Association running around putting up posters the numbers were down with many local people saying they did not know it was on! I was surprised therefore that Cllr Nick Elliot-Cannon put in an amendment to the motion at the full Council effectively saying they were not having a reception and adding that Services for Communities were looking at options for alternative 'value for money' communications. I pointed out in my speech that thinking that another council publication could take the place of the independent local community newspapers showed a complete lack of understanding of what they were and why this was such a loss to the area. People will miss them more and more as time goes on.
This week, by contrast, has been mostly civic. Monday was the 'Ceremony of the Keys' , Tuesday the Garden Party and Wednesday the investitures for the Order of the Thistle. The Ceremony of the Keys is a grand spectacle as is the 'Shooting for the Edinburgh Silver Arrow' (all of which I attend as a Bailie) and I don’t think we advertise these things enough. The passers by that were there loved it but if more people knew it was on they would want to come along.
Would it be a crime to admit though that I am looking forward to my holidays?