127 hours with Green councillors

School student Alice Aitken describes a week in the City Chambers with Green councillors.

The film “127 hours” is about a mountain biker who gets trapped in a desert cave for 5 days and, in desperation to get free, has to cut off a limb with his penknife.

I was hoping my five days work placement with Edinburgh’s Green councillors this week (23rd-27th June) would not be quite as traumatic but I did want to have my eyes opened to the world of local politics, thanks to my local Green councillor, Gavin Corbett. I did not know what to expect from this week but I have enjoyed it all, the tasks varying from delivering leaflets regarding road safety in Craiglockhart, to hearing airport staff list the ways in which they feel their business benefits the economy.

I was thrown into responsibility and was trusted to be left in charge of designing an information leaflet for residents of the Craiglockhart area, regarding road safety. I was fairly well prepared for this task, having attended a community council meeting prior to my placement, yet was still surprised that the Greens were willing to let me have take on this task in their name. This boosted my confidence in the work placement, which was a goal that I had set myself prior to the week beginning.

The Green councillors and surrounding staff were all extremely welcoming and answered any queries I had, ranging from the location of the toilets, to technological issues that came my way as a consequence of the computer system. I observered many committees, all of which added to my experience and knowledge of the goings on in the City Chambers and even informed me on some issues that were occuring in my ward that I had no prior knowledge of. It also made me aware that members of the public are permitted to observe these committees, which I would encourage you all to do. It may allow you to understand your councillors better by being made aware of their opinions and viewpoints on various matters and it will definitely give you a better insight into what is happening in the city in which we live.

I was fortunate enough to have my week with the Green councillors fall upon the week in which Full Council took place. This only occurs once a month so was a very nice coincidence as it allowed me to bear witness to local politics from all parties that are part of  Edinburgh City Council, giving me a wider insight into the work of the council. Full Council took place on the 26th and touched on many matters, enhancing my understanding on issues such as the Mortonhall baby ashes issue and the council’s debate on how to encourage employers to pay the Living Wage. Being able to see these matters being discussed up close from the public gallery made me feel very involved in the politics and was an eye-opening experience.

I feel very fortunate to have had such a pleasant experience on my placement and to have not simply been commanded to sit and do photocopies all day which I feared might be the case. Not only was I moving around the huge building of the City Chambers all day, getting to view grand and marvellous rooms, but I was also able to go out of office too, delivering the leaflets that I helped design around an area in my own ward. This experience, despite occasional rainfall, was very enjoyable as not only was I able to improve my knowledge of street names and geography, but I also got the chance to converse with residents about the road safety issue and hear what an interest they had, making my efforts on the leaflets seem worthwhile.

I’m grateful to the Green councillors and their staff for granting me such a wonderful opportunity. They made me feel comfortable and welcome and allowed me to experience a true working enviroment that I feel benefitted me hugely and allowed me to enjoy this past week and want to come into my placement every morning.

And I didn’t even have to saw off my arm!

Alice Aitken is a sixth year pupil at Boroughmuir High School