The area of the count venue - Highland Hall at the Royal Highland Centre ...
... is bigger than the size of a professional football pitch ;-)
With just one week to go until the Scottish Parliament Election 2016, Edinburgh is gearing up to run its own part in the vote.
Preparations are already well underway across the city’s polling places and count venue, while training is in progress for staff working on the day and the first postal votes are being processed.
And though registration for the electoral roll is now closed, citizens are still being urged to think carefully about their vote, and to ensure they know when, where and how to vote on Thursday, 5 May.
Edinburgh’s Returning Officer Andrew Kerr said: “We are entering the final days of preparation for the Scottish Parliament Election and anticipation is clearly beginning to build across the city.
“Running an election in the Capital is no mean feat, and it’s thanks to a great deal of organisation and the hard work of our Election Team and thousands of election staff that things go to plan.
“As we draw nearer to the day, I hope the public are making their own plans for voting, and ensuring they know when, where and how to have their say by checking the Council website while remembering to add one cross on each paper on the day.”
Postal voters are encouraged to return their votes as soon as possible to ensure they meet the deadline.
As we count down the seven days until the election, we're counting up some of the key facts about Edinburgh’s vote.
• 366,000: the approximate number of people registered to vote in the Scottish Parliament Election 2016 – around 70,000 of these are postal voters. This is the first Parliamentary election where 16 and 17-year-olds have been able to vote.
• There are six constituencies in Edinburgh – Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh Eastern, Edinburgh Northern & Leith, Edinburgh Pentlands, Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh Western. The Lothian Region also includes the three constituencies Almond Valley, Linlithgow and Midlothian North & Musselburgh.
• There are 27 individual candidates standing across Edinburgh’s constituencies. Nine parties are contesting the seven seats available for the Lothian Region, with a total of 67 candidates involved.
• 145 buildings will be used as polling places on Thursday, 5 May, housing 356 polling stations. Each station will have two ballot boxes – one for the lilac Constituency paper and one for the peach coloured Region paper.
• This year, the Council will employ over 1000 polling staff to assist the public to cast their vote – with one presiding officer and at least one polling assistant in each polling station. On the night of the count, there will be another 1200 count staff tallying votes.
• 8526m² – the area of the count venue - Highland Hall at the Royal Highland Centre. This is bigger than the size of a professional football pitch.
• The Edinburgh turnout for the UK General Election last year was 73.01%, with 261,165 votes cast. For the Scottish Referendum in 2014, Edinburgh saw a record 84% turnout, with almost320,000 people casting their votes.
• Amongst the equipment used across polling places during the day will be approximately 700yellow post-its, 500 black bin bags, 145 sets of pliers and 1068 fingerettes.
• This is the first Parliamentary election in which 16 and 17-year-olds have been able to vote, after the Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Bill was passed last year.
• Edinburgh counts for around 8.7% of Scotland’s electorate – second behind Glasgow.
• Three different types of polling booths are used in Edinburgh – aluminium, wood and cardboard.
Alternative arrangements for pupils sitting exams next month, and who are affected by the recent school closures, have been drawn up by the City of Edinburgh Council.
The contingency plans have been put together as exams start in the first week of May.
All pupils will be sitting their exams in the schools where they are currently attending.
The arrangements are:
Royal High, Drummond and Firrhill pupils will use their schools
Gracemount and Craigmount will be sitting their exams at their host schools of Liberton and Tynecastle respectively
Individual schools will update pupils and parents regarding their specific arrangements.
Over the past week the Council has had very positive discussions with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) about exams and the contingency arrangements.
Education Convener Councillor Paul Godzik said: “With the first exams only a few weeks away it is absolutely vital that we have these plans in place and pupils are given notice as to where they will be sitting their exams.
“Pupils have enough to do with their studying preparations without additional worry over where they may be sitting them. Despite the hugely challenging situation the Council have tried to ensure our pupils are given every chance to prepare properly and that as far as possible they are not impacted by the school closures.
“We will be outlining in detail to the SQA the arrangements we have put in place and how this has affected pupils, as well as providing additional study support to pupils where we feel this is necessary.”
Jean Blair, SQA Director of Operations, said: "Clearly our primary concern is for all the young people involved. We continue to work closely with City of Edinburgh Council and the individual schools to support them in the practical arrangements for the exams, which begin on Wednesday 4 May.
“The national timetable of exams will continue as planned and pupils should continue with their studies in preparation to sit their exams on the dates in the published exam timetable."
The programme of structural surveys arranged by the Edinburgh Schools Partnership is continuing. Parents will be provided with further information on individual school surveys once the full reports are received and assessed.
The City of Edinburgh Council has confirmed it is now not expecting to receive details of when the PPP1 schools will be available for pupils until the end of next week.
Chief Executive Andrew Kerr said he was disappointed by the lack of survey results from the Edinburgh Schools Partnership who operate and manage the schools on behalf of the Council and who are responsible for undertaking the required repairs.
He said: “We have been in constant dialogue with the Edinburgh Schools Partnership, and they are aware of our concerns. It is important that we have clear information regarding the condition of these schools, and when they will be safe to reopen.
“I know that parents, teachers and pupils will share my frustration at this delay. The safety of our children is our number one priority and we all want our schools to reopen safely, as soon as possible.
“We are doing everything we can so ESP can provide the Council with the information which will allow us to make a decision regarding the next steps.”
The schools were closed on Monday 11 April and affect 7,600 primary and secondary pupils and 740 nursery pupils.
I share the frustration of families across the city at recent events, which have resulted in the closure of 17 of our schools. Equally, I'm sure they understand the reasons behind the steps we've taken - the safety of our children has to be our number one priority.
This has been an unprecedented logistical challenge for the Council. I want to thank parents for their patience and understanding and teaching staff, head teachers and other Council colleagues who have pulled out all of the stops to ensure our children's education can continue.
Putting in place alternative arrangements for 7,600 primary and secondary pupils and 740 nursery children in just over one week is a remarkable achievement.
The Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), which operates and manages these schools on our behalf, is continuing to carry out full surveys and, once results are received, they will be assessed and we will update parents on next steps. I want to reiterate that the associated costs will rest squarely with ESP - and not with the Edinburgh taxpayer.
I intend to bring an update report on the issue to the Corporate Policy and Strategy meeting on 17 May.
Councillor Andrew Burns Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council
Satisfaction on the rise
I was really encouraged by the results of the latest Edinburgh People Survey, which showed that 96% of respondents were satisfied with life in the capital, while two thirds of participants said they were happy with the way the Council manages the city.
Feedback like this lets us know just where we're getting it right, with satisfaction in areas like community safety and financial management continuing to increase. That said, the survey also lets us know where improvements need to be made, particularly in services such as refuse collection and roads maintenance.
The Edinburgh People Survey is essential to making the city a better place to live for everyone in an increasingly challenging financial climate. By focusing our resources on the things that matter the most to people, we aim to deliver best value to the Edinburgh taxpayer, at the same time as improving quality of life.
Ross Theatre refurb?
The stage is set for a replacement bandstand in Edinburgh and the curtain will be raised on design ideas in June. The Council has agreed to work with city hotelier Norman Springford on a shared ambition for a new stage to replace the Ross Bandstand, which sits in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle in West Princes Street Gardens.
The open-air venue has hosted scores of famous acts and events over the decades including the city's famous Festival Fireworks and Hogmanay Concert in the Gardens.
There is a lot of work to be done, not least on the feasibility of building a new structure on Common Good Land, but there is no denying the current, 80-year-old structure is nearing the end of its useful life and that we must start thinking about the future of this venue now.
We are now less than two weeks away from the Scottish Parliament Election on Thursday, 5 May, when electors across the country will have the opportunity to help decide who represents them at Holyrood for the next four years.
In Edinburgh, we've witnessed a real enthusiasm for participating in the democratic process over recent years, with impressive turnouts in both the UK Parliamentary Election and the Scottish Referendum in 2014, and we really want to see this continue in May. This year will also see 16 and 17-year-olds voting in an election for the first time and I look forward to welcoming the city's youngest voters to take part.
The sale of Atria, our award winning office development to Deka Immobilien for £105m, was welcome news this month.
It was built using an innovative funding package to develop much needed Grade A office space in the city to attract new, and retain existing businesses. In addition, it cross-subsided the cost of an expansion to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC).
Our plan to sell Atria once the development was completed and the economic conditions were right, is an excellent example of our sound financial forward planning.
Many hands make light work
From 1 April, changes in Scottish Government legislation meant that NHS and Council colleagues across Scotland are now jointly delivering health and social care services.
The Edinburgh Integration Joint Board became responsible for the strategic planning and resourcing of health and social care services for the City. The Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership has been formed to deliver these services on behalf of the EIJB and in collaboration with the private and voluntary sectors and community organisations.
These changes are driven by a mixture of legislation and the need for cost savings in both the Council and NHS Lothian. The partnership approach allows for more creative ways to deliver services to meet the needs of Edinburgh's citizens. In Edinburgh, the focus remains on quality of service, clearer pathways for service users, and colleagues working collaboratively to reduce bureaucracy and duplication.
Guinness Pro 12 Final
Finally, the Guinness PRO12 Final takes place at Murrayfield on Saturday 28 May 2016. This will be a great event for the city and it is the first time the final is being held outside of Ireland.
While we still do not know which teams will be playing, there is guaranteed to be a wealth of international rugby stars on display. The match kicks off at 5.30pm and you can buy tickets here.
Stay in the picture
Keep yourself in the picture with our news section online. Watch live full Council and some committee meetings on our webcast. Join the debate on Twitter #edinwebcast
I'm just a little chuffed this afternoon :-)) I first did the 'Great Edinburgh Run' back in April 2014, when I was preparing for the May 2014 Edinburgh Marathon ... ... I blogged about it at the time here - and was pleased with 1hr 37mins. Ran it last year, see here, and was very pleased with 1hr 39mins. So I really am chuffed to have run it today; in 1hr 35mins :-) Life in the old-dog yet :-))
Regular readers will know that it was the April meeting of the Corporate, Policy & Strategy Committee earlier this morning ... ... as well as all of the previously referenced (regular) business, the issue of the recent (and ongoing) School closures featured in a composite Emergency Motion, which was supported by all Parties, and which I'll simply cut-and-paste below --- --- you can also watch the discussion via the webcast - link from here - if you're so minded. And generally - please do continue to keep an eye on the following two links over coming days, which will be updated on a daily basis with further details:
------------ Edinburgh Schools 1. Committee notes, with regret, the recent necessity to close several Edinburgh Schools – all of which were designed, constructed, and continue to be managed, by the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP). 2. Committee also notes that the Council Leader has apologised for the significant inconvenience these closures have caused. 3. Committee further notes that the safety of children, and our staff, has to be the top priority and the Council cannot take any risks with such. Thus, given the professional advice from the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) – received on Friday 8th April – the Council had no option but to close these facilities. 4. Committee understands that the most immediate tasks which will be carried out as a matter urgency will be: the continuation of educational-provision; ensuring the safety of the affected buildings; and seeing the facilities safely re-opened. 5. Committee thereafter calls for an urgent update report concerning this series of events, including a full update from the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), subject to an independent peer review, on the reasons for the identified defects; and instructs that the overall update report goes to the next meeting of the Corporate, Policy and Strategy Committee on Tuesday 17th May 2016. 6. The update report to include an update on the wider project/governance issues such as the council's management of the contract and the role of building control from the outset. + the following referred to the 17th May Committee meeting: 7. Committee also calls for a full inquiry into the failure of ESP buildings, including the contractual and other arrangements with the ESP regarding the quality assurance of the construction of the buildings; any responsibility CEC had during the construction phase including through Building Control; whether contractual terms have been adhered to; the management and maintenance of the buildings since construction; an assessment of costs incurred by the Council and by families and options for recovery. Moved by - Councillor Burns Seconded by - Councillor Ross ------------