Council Leader comments
What kind of city does Edinburgh want to be?
That was the question Gerry Hassan posed in his column in The National last Sunday, and it’s a question we’ve been asking Edinburgh citizens for the last 12 months – with over 55,000 responses.
“Some even wonder – where is the vision” claims Gerry, but our work towards creating a City Vision for Edinburgh is the biggest project of its kind across the country. It has become the most engaging public consultation our city has ever held, with residents and businesses sharing their ambitions for the type of city they want Edinburgh to be. We’ll have a complete set of principles agreed in the Autumn, which will guide everything Edinburgh does for the next 30 years.
Already, it’s clear to me from the feedback so far that Edinburgh wants to remain the culturally diverse and successful city Gerry describes it to be, but that we need to get to a place where everyone can share in this success. No longer a city of two sides, but a place where poverty is eradicated and all our citizens can access the enormous opportunities open to us here in the Capital.
Not only do I agree with Gerry when he describes “significant areas of poverty and disadvantage” existing within some of the city’s “most affluent areas” – I also think it is one of the most important issues we can possibly address as a Council. We need bold measures to bridge the two sides of our city and through the work of our Poverty Commission, we’re actively gathering information around how, when and why people fall into deprivation in Edinburgh, so that we can make living in poverty a thing of the past.
Striking a better - and fairer - balance is also at the heart of our work to manage the impacts of population growth and tourism, which Gerry rightly points out is a concern. But it is wrong to suggest the city isn’t reaching high to overcome these challenges - not when Edinburgh has shown world-leading ambition over the last two years, putting people and planet at the heart of our city. Not when we’re pioneering new measures to protect our communities and giving ourselves globally ambitious targets in the process.
We know poorly managed short-term lets can hurt communities and put pressure on housing supply and rents, so much so that we’re leading the way in fighting for change. Just last week we published our city’s loud and clear response to the Scottish Government’s consultation, calling for a licensing regime to ensure short-term letting becomes sustainable. It is worth also pointing out that the Scottish Government’s action on this is in response to the work we in Edinburgh have been doing around this very issue.
Coupled with our proposals to introduce the UK’s first Transient Visitor Levy, or ‘tourist tax’, it’s clear that we’re making changes which go beyond the challenges of today and address the kind of pressures the city will face in the future. Changes which are tied to future-proofing our transport network to manage population growth by taking our trams to Newhaven and our radical City Centre Transformation Project, which has the potential to overhaul the way we move around the Capital.
We also have one of the most ambitious climate change targets in the world - to become a Zero Carbon Capital City by the year 2030 - so is it really fair, as Gerry suggests, to believe Edinburgh doesn’t have a vision?
We’re well aware of the pressures and opportunities we face as Scotland’s growing Capital City. It’s why we’re at the forefront of change and taking major steps to become the city Edinburgh citizens want it to be. However, we shouldn’t let any Scottish cringe stop us from celebrating the enormous success our Capital city has become. We’re the most economically successfully, culturally dynamic city in the country and we shouldn’t for a second lose sight of that while we address our challenges.
Councillor Adam McVey is the Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council