31 August 2011

Cops Pedal to Paris for Charity

I've been asked by a participant to give a plug to this years Auld Alliance  Edinburgh Paris Sponsored Cycle. If readers want to follow their blogs  I understand it will help raise more sponsorship.

A worthy cause and best of luck to all involved.

SNP Welcome on Board the Trams Project

I am delighted that the SNP Group on the City Council have agreed to support the proposal to build the Tram line to St Andrew's Square. 

I know that it was not an easy decision and that lot of soul searching has gone on there. Others will cast stones but not me! It is always a brave thing to do to move from a long standing position for the good of the public.  This move isn't any admission on their part that they were wrong but a realization that things have moved on, that there will be a tram line and a desire that it should be as good as possible. That is to be welcomed.

I said in my last post it was time to rise above politics. I hope that the other two groups who voted for Haymarket will now do so so we can, as a Council, unite behind the St Andrew's Square destination and finish this project.

30 August 2011

Time to Work Together in Edinburgh's Interests

I rarely write on the issue of the Edinburgh Trams project but feel compelled to post on the topic now.

Last week the Council voted to curtail the line to Haymarket, well short of the City Centre, blowing apart a carefully crafted deal between effectively the Council and the Consortium building the line. This was not a move I voted for and the public outcry has been extraordinary.

This week the Contractor has come back to us and said that if we choose to go to Haymarket only then the price will rise by £30 million that hadn’t been factored in to the report last week for a portion of additional line to turn the trams around. This part of the line will go along Shandwick Place an agonising few yards short of Princes St where Tram Lines have already been laid.
I don’t want to get into “a who did what” and “who is to blame narrative” – it would be too complex and frankly the Edinburgh Public is sick of that approach. I do think we have an opportunity to step back from disaster and move forward with a constructive compromise.

We already have one “Edinburgh’s Disgrace” we don’t need another one. This was a   botched attempt to build a National Monument on Calton Hill and was an ancient Capital Project gone wrong. It stands there as a permanent reminder to our “City Fathers” of the folly of dithering politicians.

All involved in this, even the Lib Dem's, must now to rise above party politics on this issue and do the right thing by this City.

If councillors from any of the other parties are reading this remember that history will not judge you kindly for putting party interest before the City’s. 

We have a Special Council Meeting on Friday to discuss the issue again in light of these changed circumstances. Lets step back from the abyss and work together.

29 August 2011

First Council homes for a generation up for top award

This press statement explains it all!

First Council homes for a generation up for top award

The project which will see the first new council homes built in Edinburgh for more than a generation has been short listed for another major housing award.

The 21st Century Homes for Edinburgh programme is one of the six finalists in the 'Excellence in Housing Finance and Development Category' of the 2011 UK Housing Awards.
There were more than 250 entries for the awards with the winners being announced in November. 

The nomination follows the Gracemount phase of the programme winning the Community Partnership of the Year award in the prestigious Scottish Homes Award 2011 earlier in the summer. 

21st Century Homes for Edinburgh is the Council's exciting programme to build up to 1,300 mixed tenure homes for sale and for rent across the Capital. This will see up to £150 million of Council-led investment in the regeneration of the Gracemount, North Sighthill and Pennywell & Muirhouse areas of the city. 

Councillor Paul Edie, Housing Leader for the City of Edinburgh Council , said: "It's great news that our exciting 21st Century Homes programme has been recognised yet again by the housing industry as being among the best in the United Kingdom. 

"This nomination is testament to the hard work by our Housing and Regeneration Teams to come up with forward-thinking plans that will see the first new Council homes for a generation built in Edinburgh . 

"This project is a vital element of our ongoing long term regeneration plans for the Capital which will support the economy by providing new jobs in both the construction industry and other sectors. It demonstrates our commitment to tackling the affordable housing shortage in Edinburgh . " 

The demolition of the three tower blocks in North Sighthill on 25 September forms the next major milestone in the 21st Century Homes programme.

The first new Council homes on the Gracemount site are expected to be handed to the Council at the end of the year with the first families moving in early 2012. 

The new homes will contribute towards Edinburgh meeting the need for 16,600 new affordable homes over the next ten years.

24 August 2011

Clegg Visits West Edinburgh

With Council Staff at the Kirkliston Library

This morning found me in Kirkliston Library awaiting a visit from Deputy PM and UK Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg. Joining us was Scottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie

This was a visit to highlight  the issue of rural broadband which Mike Crockart MP is campaigning on. With David Cameron back on holiday Nick was acting PM and the TV crews were all wanting to get updates from him on the Libya situation.  

The visit went off very well with Nick suitably impressed with what he saw. 

23 August 2011

Sounds of the East from the Old Master

So far the highlight of my Edinburgh Festival was last nights mesmerizing performance of Evening Raga's by Ravi Shankar. 

The great man appeared on stage with his band at the Usher Hall. The last piece he performed was a half hour raga which at one stage involved  what I can only describe as a musical conversation between the three drummers on stage with him. Their understanding was telepathic.  The whole show was utterly sublime showing that, at 91 years old,  age hasn't slowed his fingers down!

I have often found there to be parallels between Raga and Jazz. Both are improvised musical forms within limits and great performers can live and work to a grand old age.

22 August 2011

Life Before the Snake Pit

Here is a fascinating insight into the life of Edinburgh Council Leader Jenny Dawe and her previous life in rural Africa. Curiously the Councillor who held Jenny's seat before her, Donald Gorrie, described the City Chambers as a "Snake pit" once. It looks like Jenny had excellent training for dealing with snakes!


14 August 2011

Melingo - Sin Luna

I thought I would share this with anyone who is interested. This is from a CD Santa Milongo by Argentine singer Daniel Melingo. It is my newest  CD and already a red hot favourite with loads of amazing songs by one of the coolest singers around. And what a voice!

13 August 2011

Caber Tossing Champ!

I struggled to recall the last athletic event I actually won. The Three Legged Race in the Fox Covert School sports day when I was in Primary seven springs to mind.  I can't recall winning anything since....until today.

I was part of a council team in a Highland Games. I have never shown any aptitude for the sports involved particularly Caber Tossing. Last year I was the worst at it but at least I tried. Nobody could have been more shocked than I was to actually win the event (OK tied for first place). Funny old world!

12 August 2011

Corstorphine Green Flag and Roseburn Mural Celebrated

Thursday saw me speaking at two special events  in parks in my ward. At St Margaret's Park in Corstorphine I was honoured to raise the Green Flag we were awarded. I was so pleased to do this as this was my local Park as a child and also when my daughters were very young they played there. 
The second event was to mark the brilliant mural in Roseburn Park.  This was a project pulled together by the Friends of Roseburn Park and funded by the West Neighbourhood Partnership. Local kids  made the mural.  

You can see the twit pic of the mural and kids on the West Teams Twitter account  here .

Both events were brilliant but very damp! It seems whenever I do a photo op outside for our Services for Communities Department it pours. Throw in an electric mic and I am always conscious of being a loose wire away from a by election! 

Well this time we had no mic but  while standing outside talking to my Neighbourhood Manger, her Environmental Manager and fellow Councillor Phil Wheeler a tree branch crashed down narrowly missing us!

10 August 2011

A Busy Day in Wet Edinburgh

It has been a particularly wet day here in the Capital. Wet and very busy 

This morning I chaired the Edinburgh Community Safety Partnership where we discussed a range of issues ranging from Hate Crime to Violence Reduction.  It is always very gratifying to see the marked improvement in crime stats since the Lib Dems took over the leadership of the council from Labour.  Crime and Antisocial Behaviour has tumbled and the evidence is there for all to see!

I then went on to speak to the Thrive Lunch Club about some of the changes we have made to Housing in the City. The presentation was very warmly received by the audience and I had a really positive story to tell about our housing performance.

Tonight I am Chairing a Business meeting of the West Neigbourhood Partnership.  All go!

9 August 2011

Sharp Improvement in Housing Performance

I attended our Policy and Strategy Committee this morning. I was very impressed by the annual report of our Services for Communities Department. It laid out in striking terms just what the improvement has been  since the Lib Dem led administration took power after 23 years of Labour control. 

These are just some of the improvements in performance markers which relate to the part of my portfolio the Department deals with.... 
  • Domestic Abuse Noise Complaints Average Time between Complaints and attendance 06/07 35hrs 10/11 25hrs
  • Antisocial Behaviour Average Time between Complaints and attendance   06/07   2hrs 10/11  0.7
  • Repeat Homelessness Presentations 06/07 11.2%  10/11 8.8%
  • Homeless Applications  06/07 5516   10/11  4645
  • % Council Properties Meeting the Scottish Housing Quality Standard 06/07 25%  10/11 69%
  • Average Time to re-let council houses - not low demand (days)  06/07 37  10/11 27
  • Average time to re-let low demand homes (days) 06/07 62   10/11   43
  • rent lost on empty homes as % of total rent due  06/07 1.3%  10/11  0.6%
This is a very impressive performance and our staff team are to be congratulated. These  extraordinary  results have been achieved against the back drop of the worst economic conditions since the 1930's which makes the  performance even more impressive!

7 August 2011

Win for Scotland, Showcases for Edinburgh Artists and Chinese Theatre

A busy weekend has come to a slight halt with a pinged calf muscle from running this morning.  I was hoping to play touch rugby this afternoon but sadly that is now out. I suppose the heavy rain also doesn't help though I always enjoyed sliding about in the mud!

Instead I slipped along to the Coburg Studios  to take in some of the excellent work the local artists have produced.  My  niece Pauline Edie was exhibiting. You can  view some of Pauline's  fab work on her website http://www.paulineedie.com/index.htm .

All the  work on display as excellent and I can recommend a visit.

On Friday I took in the Chinese spectacular Qing Chen, a sort of cross between Les Miserable and Hero. This piece of musical theatre was extraordinary and really got the Fringe of to a spirited start.

The Fringe had over recent years been very heavily dominated by comedy but it is so good to see theatre being so high profile this year thanks to some very well known participants.

Lastly congratulations to the Scottish Rugby side on their nail biting win against ireland. There are 0-0 draws in football which are very exciting and for a long toime this looked like one of those. Both sides threw the ball round and there was a lot of great running rugby.  Scotland just sneaked a late try to see them home in a World Cup warm up match.

5 August 2011

Coburg Studios Open Weekend

I would like to plug the Coburg Studios Open weekend. I hope to get down there myself to see some of the work the 70 or so artists holed up there produce. My wonderful niece Pauline is one of them. She is a fabulous, award winning jeweler.


Fringe Festival Opens

The Edinburgh Festival kicks off today with the opening of the Fringe Festival.  

There are a number of Edinburgh Festivals - the Film Festival was in June but they are talking about reverting to their old slot in August - the Jazz Festival is in July and the Fringe and International Festival are in August. Toss into the mix the book festival, tattoo and I am sure I have forgotten one or two others.

Through my office window the sounds of close harmony singing, bagpipes and  street theatre waft in with the late summer breeze. 

I think it was Joan Bakewell who said that there was no where else on earth to be in August. For me August isn't August unless I am seated under canvass on Charlotte Square listening some writer whose words are being drowned out by the sound of  rain hammering down on the roof!

4 August 2011


This is a copy of a Press Statement on how Lib Dem led Edinburgh is working with the new Scottish Housing Trust to build new Affordable Houses.

The first contracts to deliver affordable homes in the Capital have been signed under the National Housing Trust initiative.

Developer Places for People will deliver 188 homes in Lochend North and Madelvic 8. The 126 homes in Lochend represent the largest contract signed to date between a developer, Scottish Futures Trust and a local authority.

The homes are the first for the City of Edinburgh being built as a result of the National Housing Trust initiative. 

The innovative National Housing Trust initiative is being led by the Scottish Government and Scottish Futures Trust in order to provide a major expansion in the provision of affordable rented homes across the country. It builds on an initiative in Edinburgh between the Council and housing associations in the city which has already delivered new affordable homes.
The money borrowed by the Council to help fund the purchase of homes under the initiative will be underwritten by the Scottish Government.

Councillor Paul Edie, Housing Leader for the City of Edinburgh Council said: “I’m delighted that Edinburgh has blazed a trail by securing the largest contract so far for affordable homes through the National Housing Trust initiative.

"This is a significant achievement given the current economic climate and shows the firm commitment by this Council to give the affordable housing market and construction industry a much-needed boost. 

"I hope that the other developers we are currently in negotiation with will soon follow suit as the National Housing Trust initiative is an innovative way of tackling the shortage of affordable homes not just in Edinburgh but around the country. Everyone knows more needs to be done and it's good that the public and private sector are working in partnership on this initiative.”
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex Neil said:
“I am delighted that our ground-breaking National Housing Trust funding model, the first of its kind in the UK, is continuing to bear fruit. 

“It will provide a significant boost to the number of new affordable homes in Edinburgh, secured for very little taxpayers’ money, support jobs and stimulate construction as the sector and our economy continues to recover from tough times.

“Clearly the NHT has inspired confidence. Councils, developers and housing associations have risen to the challenge and embraced this approach as one that can help ease housing pressures locally.”

Place for People’s Project Director, Colin Rae said: "Places for People is delighted to be the first developer to sign the first contracts for the National Housing Trust initiative in Edinburgh. The initiative is great news for the city and will mean 188 new affordable homes to rent being built over the next couple of years for local people. 

“We look forward to starting work as soon as possible and working closely with our partners at the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government." 

Barry White, Chief Executive of Scottish Futures Trust said: "In these challenging economic times, the National Housing Trust opens the door to a new way to build affordable housing in Scotland. 

“This demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together in an imaginative way.  Such innovation is at the heart of Scottish Futures Trust's work."

Notes to editors:
Three other developers have all entered into a Framework Agreement with the Council and Scottish Futures Trust. It is anticipated that more contracts will be signed over the next few months. They are: Miller Homes (Telford North), Hillcrest (Salamander Street/Salamander Place) and New City Vision (Niddrie Mains Road).

Edinburgh is leading the way among Scottish local authorities taking part; aiming to secure much-needed affordable homes and boost the local economy. All the planned homes will be for intermediate rent.

The National Housing Trust will deliver new homes for mid market rent (starting rent levels will be set at around 84 per cent of March 2011 Local Housing Allowance rates) across the country. 
The City of Edinburgh Council already supports a similar development guarantee scheme locally and this has already been successful at providing new affordable homes.

With the ongoing financial pressures on local authorities and Scottish Government budgets the National Housing Trust initiative is seen as a way of maintaining investment in affordable housing.

1 August 2011

The Original Song to the Siren

I stumbled across this lost masterpiece from 1968. The song it is  utterly mesmerizing and more famous for being covered by This Mortal Coil featuring two of the Cocteau Twins.  

Tim Buckley was Jeff Buckley's dad and died at the age of thirty from an accidental heroin overdose. Talent runs in the family obviously. Sadly so did accidental death with Jeff  drowning at the age of 28.