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.