Monday, April 27, 2015

Allotment Update!

I've been a bit remiss, amidst all the General Election mania, about posting up some snaps of progress at the Allotment this season :-(

Well - regular readers will be relieved to know that the potatoes are actually planted; and you can see I've even gone for dreels this year :-)

Hopefully a few more snaps will follow after the 7th May!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lord Provost completes London Marathon

Lord Provost completes London Marathon

Lord Provost after completing the marathonLord Provost Donald Wilson finished the London Marathon in five hours and raised over £6,000 for local causes.
A relaxed Lord Provost after completing the marathon
This was his very first marathon having only taken up running last year. He completed the 26 miles in five hours two minutes and 50 seconds and raised money for the following causes:
  • The One City Trust Rapid Action Fund is the Lord Provost’s local charity and aims to fight inequality. It supports a variety of community-based charities and organisations by providing emergency funds and resources, and has helped a host of causes from breakfast clubs to foodbanks, and social clubs for elderly residents.
  • The Jamie Skinner Foundation will help provide defibrillators in Edinburgh communities and training in their use.

He said: "I did it! What a fantastic day and I’m so thankful for all of the support. I think I’m Edinburgh’s first Provost to complete a marathon and I am proud that I’ve managed to raise so much money for local charities. It was certainly a challenge but one I worked hard to achieve.

"It was never about completing the marathon in a set time -  I just wanted to reach the finishing line! But in the end, with the adrenaline flowing, I managed it in my best time yet. It has been absolutely worth it but I am now looking forward to putting my feet up!”

You can still sponsor Donald via this link ;-)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pedal on Parliament #POP2015

Made it along to my second, Pedal on Parliament event today and was very impressed (once again!) with the turnout.

--- some four to five thousand cyclists, I'd say?

& also the generally smooth organisation of the whole day :-)

I know that doesn't happen by accident, and the organising-team deserve huge congratulations for their efforts!

Picture on the left is of my arrival at the Harrison Park (Shandon) feeder-ride

And, on the right here, you can see my bike back at home still displaying the 'Harrison Park Feeder Ride' flag(s) ...

Behind it all, is an 8-point manifesto, which you can read via here --- and I'll also repeat the main points below:

1)    Proper funding for cycling.
2)    Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
3)    Safer speeds where people live, work and play
4)    Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
5)    Sensible road traffic law and enforcement
6)    Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
7)    A strategic programme of road user training
8)    Solid research on cycling to support policy-making

All eminently sensible; but I do acknowledge that whilst the City of Edinburgh Council is making good progress in all eight areas, there is much, much more to do.

Friday, April 24, 2015

April Leader's Report

April 2015

Residents get some satisfaction


Andrew Burns
The results of our annual residents' survey continue to offer encouragement and reassurance that, broadly speaking, residents believe we are managing their city well.

According to the 2014 Edinburgh People survey, the largest of its kind in the UK, over three-quarters of residents are satisfied with the way we are managing neighbourhoods. Nine in ten, meanwhile, are satisfied with Edinburgh as a place to live, with two-thirds expressing satisfaction with the Council's management of the city overall.

That said, given a backdrop of falling budgets and greater demand for our services, it is hardly surprising that some are performing less well - particularly those areas, such as refuse collection and recycling, currently undergoing significant changes to delivery.

But through this survey, and our extensive budget consultation, we are listening to what residents are telling us - and acting on their feedback.

Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh

Mikaeel Kular case review


Last January, we had to face the outcome that everyone dreaded, namely that Mikaeel Kular had not been found safe and well. It was a tragic situation and, although over a year has now passed, our thoughts are with his family and friends still struggling to come to terms with the circumstances surrounding his death.

We shouldn't forget the incredible show of community spirit in North Edinburgh following Mikaeel's disappearance, with hundreds of volunteers giving up their time to join the search. It was extremely moving and inspiring to see the community pull together like that and I know that spirit remains strong today.

While the independent case review, a summary of which was published this week, is clear that Mikaeel's death could not have been foreseen, it is vital that all agencies involved read and digest everything in the report.

City Deal for Edinburgh


I am delighted to be working with our five neighbouring local authorities to pursue a deal for the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region.

In creating this fund, and unlocking billions of pounds of potential infrastructure investment, we want to build on our strengths whilst tackling persistent pockets of inequality and other constraints that threaten to hold the region back.

We have written collectively to the UK and Scottish Governments seeking their agreement to develop a more detailed proposition, which we hope to finalise by the end of the year.

Election countdown


With less than a fortnight to go until the General Election, preparations are well underway to ensure the process is as smooth and efficient as possible across Edinburgh's five Westminster constituencies.

As 67,000 postal votes hit residents' doormats earlier this week, around 900 presiding officers and their assistants were receiving the training required to run the city's 145 polling places, open for voting between 7am and 10pm on 7 May.

As per the Referendum last September, the eyes of the UK (if not necessarily the world this time!) will be on Scotland, and Edinburgh, and we want to ensure that, once again, we give them the best possible view. Media interest is already hotting up and I have no doubt that our new count venue, the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, will allow us to do just that.

Awards success


Congratulations to the staff of Willow - a ground breaking partnership that provides support to women in the criminal justice system - on being awarded the prestigious COSLA Gold Award for tackling inequalities and improving health.

A background of offending can permanently stigmatise people and Willow is doing vital work to help reduce reoffending and help service users build better futures.

Meanwhile, the Council's Commercial Excellence programme collected an award for innovation, improvement and best practice at the recent CIPFA awards. The fact that the judging panel included the Auditor General demonstrates just how far the procurement team has come over the last two years.

Marathon Man


And finally an appeal on behalf of our Lord Provost, Donald Wilson, who is running the London Marathon this Sunday, 26 April. This will be his first ever marathon, having only taken up running last year.

Donald is running in order to raise funds for two local and very worthwhile charities, both of which are very close to his heart: The One City Trust and Jamie Skinner Foundation. Please support him and these worthy causes by giving what you can.

Having run my last (ever!) marathon a year ago, I can assure you he deserves every penny!

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The City of Edinburgh Council

April Council Meeting

General Election fever may be gripping most of the country - but Council business continues as normal!

The regular April Council Meeting is coming up - next Thursday (30th) ... 

... all the reports are now up on Committee Papers On-Line (CPOL) and you can access the main agenda directly here; and each of the individual reports separately via this link.

Of course - as ever, if you're so minded, you can watch all the proceedings live here ...

... or the meeting will be archived a few hours after it finishes for viewing at your leisure!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2-weeks to go until Polling Day!

Only 2-weeks to go ... everything you need to know about where, when and how to vote can be found here; and here's a link to a handy fact-sheet with all the relevant information in one place!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Edinburgh Great Run

Delighted to report that I successfully completed my second Edinburgh Great Run earlier today ...

... this time last year, when I was in the midst of Marathon-training, I managed 1-hour 37-minutes, so was delighted to run it today in 1-hour 39-minutes ;-)

Not that fast, I know, but proof that there's (a bit of) life in the old-dog yet :-))

... and here's my 2015 finisher medal!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

3-weeks to go until Polling Day!

Only 3-weeks until Polling Day, and even less time to ensure you're actually registered to vote --- see that last post for all the details, and check before Monday 20th April if you're not sure?

All the local Edinburgh information you need can be found on either:


Monday, April 13, 2015

Register to vote by 20th April

There's only until next Monday to register to vote, in what could be the closest election of our lifetime!

You can register here:


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Voters urged to check registration details as General Election approaches

Voters urged to check registration details as General Election approaches

Voters in Edinburgh are being urged to check their registration details are correct four weeks ahead of the General Election.

With the campaigns in full swing and poll cards already hitting doormats, citizens are reminded that they must be registered in order to have their say on May 7th.

Tenants and recent movers are the focus of a drive to encourage registration.

Members of the public, including students and people who have moved home since the last time they registered, should check they are on the electoral role ahead of the registration deadline on April 20th.

Nominations close on Thursday for General Election Candidates, when the final list of those standing for Edinburgh’s five constituencies will be announced.

Sue Bruce, Chief Executive of City of Edinburgh Council and Returning Officer for the Edinburgh constituencies, said: “Interest in the forthcoming General Election is really starting to build up. It is essential that voters’ registration details are up-to-date so they can cast their votes and I would urge anyone who is unsure to check in plenty of time.”

More than 84% of the city’s residents voted in the Scottish Independence Referendum in September, which saw a record-breaking turnout across the country.

But changes to the electoral registration system could mean some electors need to re-register. Anyone who has moved since August can update their address or other details (external link) by visiting the GOV.UK website.

You can check you are registered by phoning the Lothian Valuation Joint Board (external link) on 0131 344 2500.

Find out more about where, when and how to vote.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to one and all :-)

I'm going to attempt to re-aquaint myself with the family over the weekend ...

... no online presence (of any form!) now, until next Tuesday at least.

I am available on the mobile if its a real emergency - but, in the nicest possible manner, I hope not to hear from too many folk ;-)

Edinburgh City Region targets billion pound boost

Delighted that the City Council, and our 5 neighbouring Local Authorities, have reached the stage of formally submitting a 'City Region Deal' to both Scottish and UK Governments ...

... relevant News Release can be seen here - and I'll re-produce the text below:

Edinburgh City Region targets billion pound boost

A partnership of local authorities is aiming to win a £1bn city deal, under ambitious plans announced today.

The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region – comprising Edinburgh, Borders, Fife, Mid, East and West Lothian councils – will work together to develop a deal with the Scottish and UK Governments designed to grow the local, national and UK economies.

At the heart of the proposition lies a £1bn infrastructure fund, with priority areas for investment likely to include transport, housing, economic regeneration, energy and digital connectivity.

It is estimated that an additional £3.2bn of private sector investment could be leveraged, generating tens of thousands of new jobs and providing a sustainable 5% uplift to the local economy.

The deal will be targeted at maximising the opportunities afforded by the world class research base, and would look to exploit the wide range of technologies being pioneered across the city region.

Any investment would be supported by a complementary package of skills and innovation measures, such as business-led training academies in key growth sectors.

Speaking on behalf of the six local authorities, City of Edinburgh Council Leader, Andrew Burns, said: “I am delighted to be working with our five neighbouring local authorities to pursue a deal for the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region.

“In creating this fund, we want to build on our strengths whilst tackling persistent pockets of inequality and other constraints that threaten to hold the region back.

“Our next step will be to seek UK and Scottish Government agreement on the development of a detailed proposition; one that we believe can unlock billions of pounds of potential infrastructure investment, thereby ensuring the continued growth and reduction in inequality across one of Europe's most successful city region economies.”

Assuming a positive response from ministers, detailed work on prioritising potential investment would continue in partnership with representatives from both governments.


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Edinburgh's residents amongst the proudest of their city

No - of course this isn't an April Fools ...

... just follow the various links below ;-)


Edinburgh's residents amongst the proudest of their city

The City of Edinburgh Council Leader has welcomed news that Edinburgh's residents are amongst the proudest of their city in the country.

Research by YouGov revealed that 90% of citizens are proud to live in the capital, citing historic landmarks, local culture, green spaces and transport links amongst the things they love most about the city.
Council Leader, Andrew Burns, said: “We are delighted that Edinburgh’s residents are so proud of their city – we feel the same way. The capital is packed with stunning historical landmarks and beautiful open spaces, as well as a thriving cultural scene, which I know its citizens appreciate and this survey demonstrates that.
“Edinburgh boasts an excellent integrated transport system too, and these results back up positive levels of satisfaction in public transport shown in our last Edinburgh People Survey, as well as similarly positive figures from Transport for Edinburgh.
“This poll is the latest of many accolades recognising Edinburgh’s appeal, which makes it one of the best places to visit, work, live and study in the world.”
Edinburgh came second out of ten 'leading cities' in the UK, with first place Brighton scoring 91%.
Findings mirror recent results of the Edinburgh People Survey, which showed that 89% of respondents were satisfied with Edinburgh as a place to live.
Read the full results of the poll on YouGov's website.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Working Together: lessons in how to share power

Electoral Reform Society’s new report on coalition and minority government, entitled Working Together: lessons in how to share power, is launched today ... some information from their website follows.

Chapter 5 from yours truly ;-)


What is the best way for parties to share power? How can you make minoritygovernment work? And how do you negotiate a successful coalition?

These are some of the questions likely to be at the forefront of the party leaders’ minds over the next couple of months. As we near a General Election which is almost certain to produce a hung parliament, now is the perfect time to draw on politicians’ rich experience of power-sharing, both in the UK and across the world.

That’s why we’ve brought together a group of senior politicians to share their experience of working in coalition and minority government, in a new report entitled Working Together: lessons in how to share power.
The report offers personal insights from British and overseas politicians on how to negotiate and manage power-sharing arrangements. There are contributions from:
  • Former whip and junior minister Jenny Willott giving candid insights into her experience of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Westminster coalition
  • Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales, sharing his recollections of negotiating with Plaid Cymru and how to deal with the internal party politics of coalition
  • Andrew Burns, leader of Edinburgh City Council, on his experiences leading Scotland’s only Labour/SNP coalition council
  • Former Treasury special adviser Julia Goldsworthy on the machinery of government and how to make coalition work in Whitehall
  • Former First Minister of Scotland Lord Jack McConnell discussing his time in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, demonstrating that coalition can be long-lasting and achieve real policy change
  • Former New Zealand Labour minister and ERS Deputy Chief Executive Darren Hughes on the different ways in which minority government can be made to work

There are also important contributions from abroad, including former Irish minister Ruairi Quinn, former Prime Minister of Lower Saxony David McAllister, and Professor Dennis Pilon of Canada.

Working Together offers five key lessons for party leaders in May:
  1. For coalition to work, there needs to be a common sense of purpose – clear aims and a united vision for what the parties want to achieve together
  2. It takes time to negotiate. Deciding how to govern a country is not something that should be rushed. And sometimes, the longer it takes, the better the outcomes
  3. Parties need to sign off on any power-sharing arrangement if it is going to achieve legitimacy. This can take the form of special conferences or other means of gaining party members’ assent
  4. Power-sharing comes in numerous forms. Each nation can develop models of coalition or minority government which fit with their own political culture
  5. Coalitions aren’t easy. They need constant dialogue, good personal relationships between protagonists and mechanisms for resolving disputes if they are going to work

People’s wishes have changed. In a poll by ComRes of the 40 most marginal Conservative-Labour constituencies (ie. the areas where the traditional two-party battle ought to be fiercest), we found that:
  • 78% believe the Opposition should work with the government on issues they agree on (against just 9% who support the opposite)
  • 54% believe Parliament works best when no party is too dominant so that cross-party agreement is needed to pass laws (against just 28% who support the opposite)

People want to see multiple parties competing for their votes, and then working together when they get to Westminster. Our new report offers tips and guidance on how to do just that.

Of course, the fact our broken voting system tries to cram people’s varied wishes into a two-party framework can make the whole process of power-sharing seem far from transparent. If parties were able to negotiate based on the real wishes of voters and not the disproportionate results of First Past the Post, then coalition and minority government would have the legitimacy it needs. We badly need to get rid of our outdated electoral system.

But in the meantime, let’s make sure parties are ready to work together after 7th May.


Monday, March 23, 2015

March Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

March "Corporate Policy and Strategy" Committee is tomorrow; Tuesday 24th ...

... and all the papers/reports are now in the public domain: the main Agenda can be found here ---

--- the individual reports are all on Committee Papers on-Line (CPOL) linked from here.

Couple of environment/energy-related reports that may well attract some attention and debate this month:

Just click on either of the above links for access (as a PDF) to the specific report ...

... and, of course, all the Policy and Strategy Committee meetings are now being webcast live - and thereafter archived!

All available via here --- it's TV; but most certainly not like you've ever seen before ;-)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

8 weeks to go until Election Day!

Make sure your voter details are up to date

Edinburgh voters should make sure their voter details are up to date, with just eight weeks to go until the UK Parliamentary Election.

Members of the public, including students and people who may have moved home since the last time they registered, are being reminded to check their registration details are correct ahead of the vote on Thursday, 7 May.

More than 84% of the city’s residents voted in the Scottish Independence Referendum in September, which saw a record-breaking turnout across the country.

Since this time last year, the number of people registered to vote has risen by more than 15,000.
But anyone who has moved home or changed their name since the Referendum will need to ensure their details are up-to-date in order to vote in May. Members of the public can register or update their details online (external link) using the Government website by 20 April. 

Dame Sue Bruce, Chief Executive of City of Edinburgh Council and Returning Officer for Edinburgh, said: “It is crucial that voters’ registration details are correct in order to have their say in the election, so I would urge all those who are unsure to check they are registered. 

“We saw a record high turnout for the Scottish Independence Referendum last year and it would be great to continue this enthusiasm into the UK Parliamentary Election in May.”

The City of Edinburgh Council has launched a campaign to promote voter awareness and voter registration ahead of the election, along with the Lothian Valuation Joint Board.

The drive will use social media, news releases and other promotional material to share information and advice on taking part in the election. 

Find out where, when and how to vote on the Council website.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Council backs campaigner's call for more accessible taxis

My SNP-colleague, Gavin Barrie (who Chairs the Regulatory Committee), and I met with Gordon Aikman (pictured) yesterday ...

... the meeting arose out of Gordon's difficulties in getting, timeously, to a conference event in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Gordon was actually supposed to be introducing Ed Miliband at the EICC event - and missed his alloted time due to problems with taxi pick-up.

Here's the resulting News Release - both Gavn and I are determined to do all we can to ensure this doesn't happen again:
Council backs disabled campaigner's call for more accessible taxis

Council Leader, Andrew Burns and Convener of the Regulatory Committee, Cllr Gavin Barrie met with charity campaigner, Gordon Aikman yesterday to discuss concerns about taxi accessibility in Edinburgh.
Recently Mr Aikman, who has motor neurone disease, struggled to find a taxi that was able accommodate his wheelchair. He was due to introduce Ed Miliband at the Labour Party Conference in the capital but missed the opportunity after two taxis he called were unable to pick him up - one because the electric ramp was not working and the other because he ‘took too long to come down’.

Cllr Burns said: “What happed to Gordon is of course completely unacceptable and the purpose of today’s meeting was to discuss what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We have identified steps that we can take as the licensing authority for taxis in the city, to ensure that these vehicles are accessible to wheelchair users.

“For example, we will be cracking down on drivers who fail to stop for disabled customers and increasing the number of spot checks to check that the taxis’ ramps are operational. We will also be calling for taxi companies to review their allocated waiting time for collections with a view to extending this for people with mobility issues.

“We want to make sure that wheelchair users in Edinburgh have a positive experience when using taxis and I would like to thank Gordon for highlighting this very important issue.”

Other actions agreed include a review of the current driver training arrangements to improve accessibility training and looking at introducing refresher courses. Taxi drivers who are exempt from manually loading wheelchairs for health reasons may also be asked to display a prominent sign on their vehicle indicating that they are not accessible.

The agreed measures will now be taken forward by the Council, led by Councillor Gavin Barrie as Convener of the Regulatory Committee.

Welcoming the outcome of yesterday’s meeting, Gordon Aikman said: "This crackdown is very welcome. Wheelchair or not, each and every one of us should be able to get into a cab and get from A to B without any hassle.

"I've only been in a wheelchair for a couple of weeks, but have been shocked by the treatment disabled folk have to put up with.

"I'm confident this Access Action Plan will help make taxis in our capital more accessible. I hope other councils follow Edinburgh's lead. This is not about special treatment - it is about equal access. No disabled person should have to put up with second rate service."



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New SNP Group Leader ...

Local readers will no doubt be aware that there's been some 'change-at-the-top' of the City Council SNP Group, following their AGM earlier this evening ...

... long-standing SNP Group Leader, Steve Cardownie, has stood down from the top job, and been replaced by Sandy Howat as Group Leader - and Sandy will, Thursday's Council Meeting permitting, be Council Deputy Leader in due course.

At a personal level, I’ve really enjoyed working with Steve, and will be sorry to see him return to the SNP backbenches. Politics is though a pretty rough trade, and internal change does sometimes happen.
Most crucially, despite any changes at an individual level, the local Labour/SNP Coalition will continue; as we collectively understand the importance of continuity and stability for Scotland’s Capital City.
And I do now look forward to working with Sandy, who I’ve known well since 1996/7 ...

... and both of our respective Groups continue to have every intention of ensuring this unique Coalition remains in place right through to May 2017.

Our Coalition-agreement remains completely unchanged, and our focus remains on doing what is best for Edinburgh