Save Cairntows Park

Over the past few weeks, folk across Craigmillar have spoken out against plans to develop mixed tenure housing on Cairntows Park.

Local residents packed out a public meeting when they heard about the plans to build on greenspace when large parts of undeveloped land across Craigmillar remains empty. At the meeting no representatives from Parc, Edinburgh Council or the developers were present, so I asked that next time they are.

I have recently received an email from Eric Adair confirming that Parc will be looking again at the plans on the back of the opposition which the community will be pleased with.


Grassmarket Project

Another visit last week was to the Grassmarket Project which works with homeless and other vulnerable people. As you enter this unprepossessing building the first impression is how light and bright it is, the second the buzz of activity inside. In the kitchen soup was being made and Easter biscuits being rolled out.  On a couple of days a week volunteers and trainees produce 3 course lunches for over 60 people.  Upstairs people learning woodworking skills are producing beautiful furniture and gifts from old church pews (which would otherwise end up in landfill). And if you go for a stroll in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard you’ll see the Project’s herb garden.

Grassmarket projectBut I wasn’t just there to see the project (good though it is) but to hear about the Project’s campaign on conditions in bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless people.  One man told me his story. He has been in B&B for 8 months, moving during that time 6 times.  Rules applied include not being allowed to talk to fellow residents within the accommodation and having to be ‘in’at 11pm. When he wanted to stay with relatives on the occasion of a family birthday he was refused permission. When he went to the party anyway his accommodation was terminated and he had to start again in a new place.  Only breakfast is provided, with no cooking facilities, not even a kettle in the bedroom, so meals have to be in cafes or takeaways.  That’s expensive and often unhealthy.

Such restrictions would be more tolerable if B& B was genuinely short term as the Council claims it is. But 8 months is not short term.

The project is campaigning for improvements in these conditions. For proper management rules and for better support for those in B&Bs. I have pledged my support to their campaign.


Back to Westminster

It’s astonishing how much more tiring sitting through five and a half hours of the Welfare Reform Bill Committee seems to be than pounding the streets knocking on doors!

Ewan Aitken and Ed Balls on Portobello Promenade

Ewan Aitken and Ed Balls on Portobello Promenade











Much of the Easter recess has been spent campaigning in the Scottish elections. Due to various boundary changes, there are 4 Scottish Parlaiment candidates ‘inside’ my Westminster constituency and I have been going out with all of them.

However I’ve also managed to fit in some visits to local organisations. One was to ECAS, an organisation with a long history of working with disabled people in Edinburgh, to hear from them their concerns that the Government’s recent statements and consultation paper on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) had misrepresented statistics about claimants to justify proposed benefit changes. A number of constituents contacted me about the consultation on DLA reform and I submitted a response based on this. The Government responded to the consultation just before the Easter break. Despite there being over 5000 individual responses and several hundred from organisations the response is very thin. It’s literally ‘thin’ wwith about 55 pages, 10 of which just list the organisations who responded. The format is commendably ‘accessible’ in terms of print size and white space but that just makes the substance thinner!

Click here to view the consultation response.

The proposals on DLA will be discussed at the committee over the next few weeks – so let me know if you have any views!


Odeon objection

Below is my objection to the part demolition of the ‘Edinburgh Odeon’ on South Clerk Street.

In my submission I have said that DHP, current owners of the cinema, have not done enough to satisfy the local and national guidelines for demolishing a B-listed builiding. DHP have issued plans to convert the cinema to a hotel three times in the past six years, and within that time, the cinema has fallen into disprepair. When offered to the market the site has been largely overvalued, a statement suggested by Historic Scotland themselves, and this process has been dragged out for as long as possible.

I have not only objected to the part demolition of the building, but suggested that the cinema is reoffered to the market, only after an independent valuation is made.