Kate, Craigmillar has a proud community, you should look deeper and listen a lot harder.

Yesterday Kate Higgins posted her 100 day pledge as part of the Independence Referendum campaign build up.  In that post she referred to a discussion with an elderly Craigmillar resident and described the area.  I disagree with the disingenuous image she has portrayed.  Here is my response:

In your blog piece Kate you do a disservice to the community of Craigmillar by presenting not just a partial picture but in several respects an inaccurate picture of what is happening and the changes that have been made to the area with the community and the council working together.

Yes there is a new council office building which also houses the highly successful and vibrant new library. But did you take a real look around at the change that has happened? I would urge you to go there on any day of the week, but especially on the packed out ‘books for babies ‘ days, or weekday evenings when children play outside their new library. Then there is the White House, recently returned to its 1930s glories, but even more important being run as a community facility, including a cafe, by a locally based Community Development Trust. Love them or hate them, Tesco opened a brand new express store here two years ago, which they wouldn’t have done if they didn’t see a good business prospect by opening up in the area. And sorry Kate it is busy seven days a week, so the image you conjure up of the post office being the only busy shop is just not the reality. A new Deli has opened in the premises once occupied by Luca’s. In fact there aren’t a huge number of closed and boarded up shops, both a Barbers and a Hair & Beauty Salon recently opened, and they are packed with local residents who aren’t as down at heel you make out. Some of those shuttered in daytime are actually being evening opening takeaways. The biggest empty stretch is the building vacated by the council for its new offices, and certainly getting a good new use for this is essential.

There are two new primary schools in great buildings, and which are getting good inspection reports. The pace of building replacement housing has been slower than we hoped, but there are three new developments ready or virtually ready for occupation as I write. Previous phases of development are popular and high quality. Plans for further development in the centre of the area are being exhibited at the Whitehouse tomorrow – these include proposals for more retail, colony homes and a state of the art high school to replace the aging Castlebrae building.

Kate you will see all this if you indeed get out knocking on doors as I do all the year round. You will find that contrary to the stereotype many people won’t be home because they are working. There are still too many people having to juggle several jobs, and zero hour contracts, but that isn’t something only to be found in Craigmillar.

Craigmillar has a proud community spirit and it is wrong to see residents here as having practised the ‘effort of shrinkage’. The people I do speak to are pleased to see a politician at their door and are engaged with the campaign. Many are confidently making a positive decision to vote No.

It’s not that there are no remaining challenges, but it doesn’t help us to complete the task of regeneration to give the impression that nothing has been done and nothing has changed. It might suit the advocates of a Yes vote to present a dismal picture to try to boost their case, but it isn’t a picture residents would recognise. The recession slowed development, but the reduction of investment in affordable housing by the Scottish government in the last few years is not helping.

Regeneration was started with the powers and resources of devolution, and I look forward to it continuing even more rapidly with the devolution of housing benefit, proposed by my party, which will bring together all the current sources of funding for affordable housing locally. We don’t need independence to make progress.

Life shouldn’t be on hold waiting for the referendum and its aftermath, neither for Craigmillar nor for the rest of Scotland.


Save our Stations

Kezia Dugdale MSP and I are backing the Edinburgh Evening News Save our Stations campaign in response to the news that Police Scotland intends to close eight police station front desks across Edinburgh, after Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill MSP ordered a review of public counter provision.  To sign the Evening News petition against the plance, follow the instructions at http://bit.ly/1bCr94x or print and complete this petition form:

In Edinburgh East operations at Craigmillar are due to be transferred to the new East Neighbourhood Centre and there are proposals to cut the opening hours at Portobello. Kezia is formulating a response to the review and she is seeking your comments on the plans via a survey which you can complete here:

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

For further information, head to http://bit.ly/1bCr94x.



Castlebrae Consultation Outcome Report

On 21st February 2013, The City of Edinburgh Council Children & Families Property Review team reported the outcome of a consultation to close Castlebrae Community High School. In the period since publication of the Report there has been limited time to address all the issues within the Report or to discuss these matters locally. An initial response to the report is presented herein.

The City of Edinburgh Council are due to decide whether to accept or reject the recommendations at the Full Council Meeting on 14th March. You can watch the meeting online at http://www.edinburgh.public-i.tv/core/ from 10am on 14th March.

Castlebrae High School Outcome Report Response by


Portobello High School Private Bill: the school must be built on the park

The City of Edinburgh Council is currently conducting a consultation to take a Private Bill to the Scottish Parliament in early 2013 to address the legal issue that currently prevents the use of Portobello Park as the site for the new Portobello High School. This Private Bill would apply only to the specific site allocated for the school in Portobello Park. It would not change the status of any other Common Good land, either in Edinburgh or the rest of Scotland.

I firmly support the Council’s proposals to build a new Portobello High School on Portobello Park, and to take a Private Bill to the Scottish Parliament.

My full submission is available here.

If you’re still to support the Private Bill, make sure you complete the online survery by 5.00pm on Thursday, 31st January at: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/forms/form/172/en/portobello_school_private_bill__public_opinion_questionnaire

Portobello High School – Portobello Park Private Bill Consultation by


Report on Portobello High School public meeting: Second Update

Earlier today I sent out the following email to those who attended the recent public meeting on the future of Portobello High School. This follows ongoing concerns regarding the report on the meeting that Kezia Dugdale MSP, Councillor Maureen Child and I submitted to the council.

Dear all

In response to the criticisms of the report we produced that attempted to marshal the comments made at the meeting on 21st September, we have withdrawn the report. In addition it is no longer available on any of our websites. This action has been taken following the recognition that the methodology underpinning the way it was written up was deeply flawed, and for this we are sorry.

Our intention as made clear in the notice of the meeting and in the format of the meeting, was to have as open a process as possible. The report has made some people think this was not the case.

All three of us made it clear in statements before and after the legal judgment that we saw the Park as the best available site for a new school. We did not see it as our role to impose our views on the meeting or indeed in the report.

Whilst the primary goal must be to ensure the school is built on the park as soon as possible, we remain of the view that a Plan B must be prepared to prevent any further delay to the delivery of the new school.

We also think that the Council should look at all the legal routes to achieve the school in Portobello Park, as the best option by far, in parallel to investigating any feasible new site that might have emerged since the last search. The aim should be to deliver the best possible school in the shortest possible timescale.

It is also clear that our Report was in danger of distracting from the real task which is pressing the Council to move forward as quickly as possible, while making commitments to the building and its pupils in the short term.

Please accept our sincere apologies.

Best wishes

Sheila Gilmore MP Kezia Dugdale MSP Councillor Maureen Child

Update: You can download a copy of the raw data from the meeting here.