A tale of two cities

There could be no greater contrast in the last two weeks.  Our neighbours in cities in England have witnessed some of the worst scenes since the very early days of Thatcherism. Meanwhile, the streets of Edinburgh have also been thronged, but this time with the heady atmosphere of the annual festivals.

There is something very special about Edinburgh at this time of year.  I really cannot understand those residents who bemoan the festival.  Yes, its scale is sometimes overwhelming and, certainly, we could do much more to improve its green footprint.  But which city in the world does not envy Edinburgh in August?

So there is a danger in being facile by comparing the riots of last week to the celebration of human creativity in Edinburgh.  Yet, many of the performers, often young, liberal-minded and instinctively questioning of authority, would hardly be supporters of the more excessive suggestions coming from Whitehall as to how to deal with the outbreak of looting and violence in English cities.

For me, as a candidate in the City Centre by-election this week – there’s an even more immediate contrast as I have been canvassing from door to door.  Outside on the street there is a riot of colour and energy.  Inside some of the stairways there’s the reality of a more hidden Edinburgh: tenements that are crumbling under the neglect of private landlords who could not care less about their tenants; older people besieged by so-called “party flats” and cut off from decent local shops and services; and families near the breadline, struggling to get by.

Thankfully, Scottish cities have not seen the mayhem of London or Birmingham or even Croydon.  But that does not mean all is well.

That is why I have chosen the theme of a living city centre for this campaign.  The streets may be bursting with life just now.  But I want to see that same spark of vitality last through the winter, not just for 3 weeks annually.  And I want everyone to share in the benefits of living in heart of the best city in the world.