World War I Centenary (WW 100)
I paid respect to Leith’s contribution in three very different Remembrance Services and a further two services which marked Leith and Scotland’s seafaring tradition.
The first service was a special event at the Merchant Navy Memorial outside Malmaison marking 100 years since the cessation of the First World War and the loss of life in Britain’s greatest rail disaster at Gretna. A replica of a train carriage used by the Seventh and Leith was placed here as part of the event.
On Remembrance Sunday morning I was proud to be asked once again to lay a wreath at South Leith Parish Church. The church has seven different memorials as it hosts commemorative plaques from disaggregated churches in Leith.
In the afternoon I laid another wreath on behalf of Leith and Leith Walk Councillors at a ceremony in Leith Community Treatment Centre. This service by NHS Lothian has replaced the Leith Hospital service since the closure of that facility.
The last two commemorations on the following Sunday were firstly the Annual Seafarers Service in South Leith Parish Church held by The Sailors’ Society. Current and former seafarers in and out of uniform from all over Scotland were in attendance.
The final event was once again at the Merchant Navy Memorial where 21 wreaths were laid marking the contribution of ‘those in peril on the sea’. All were potent and moving reminders of Leith’s history.
North East Youth Awards 2018
Too many people take the easy route of saying young people are feckless. I was delighted to be at the very first North East Youth Awards organised by Citadel Youth Centre. They showed that young people make a positive contribution to where they live.
My favourite winner was the young man nominated by his peer group for his weekly visit to a neighbour which he had been undertaking for 12 years since he was 5 years old. You don’t read or hear good stories like that every day. I was not alone in leaving the room thinking that Leith and its surrounds have young people who are a real credit to themselves, their families and their community. Well done all.
Once again at the November meeting of Full Council I asked the SNP Leader of the Council to make formal representations to the Scottish Government to seek full and fair funding for Edinburgh. Once again he refused to do this officially or even in writing. To date this approach has made no discernible difference.
I asked questions about the accountability of the decisions taken by the Board of Lothian Buses to the Council as main shareholder. Recent decisions have included the new larger buses which do not have both wheelchair and disabled space, tour buses to other parts of the country (trips by Lothian to as far away as Blackpool) and the need for better workers terms and conditions. All arms length companies should and do make an annual report to Council Committee and I received an assurance that the Board of Lothian Buses will report to Governance, Risk and Best Value next June. Too far away in my view but better than what has not happened in holding the Board to account for their decisions to date.
Following a third consultation on renewing equipment on Leith Links I am pleased to report that work will commence next year. A final design was agreed and, even better, the original sum of £200,000 to make this happen was bumped up by a recycling grant to a whopping £299,954.93. The consultation involved local primary school pupils having their say on the new equipment so I’m sure the amenities will be well used.
This is the subject of most of my surgery visits and we have real crisis in Edinburgh with the private landlord owning more homes in the city than the Council and all housing associations put together. It was disappointing then to read a report to the Housing and Economy committee that if Edinburgh is to meet its target of building 20,000 homes in the next 5 years we need £77 million more from the Scottish Government. There are no signs that this will happen.
Without that investment the current situation of families in bed and breakfast accommodation, private profiteering from homelessness, a housing waiting list bigger than Council housing stock and young workers priced out of a housing market will continue. The funds and powers are there but the political will from the Scottish Government to change this is absent. I will continue to press and work to make this happen.