Flashback to the successful Friends of the Earth Scotland campaign 2007
“A great city let down by its elected representatives”, BBC Scotland environment and science correspondent David Miller sums up last night’s Newsnight Scotland tram story, possibly the best news coverage so far of this extraordinary mess. The thunder is still rumbling around the city today and it has a long way to roll yet.
But last night’s story asked some very important questions. Not least, where is Jenny Dawe, city council leader. As Miller said last night, if this was happening in London you can bet Boris would be all over the media.
Edinburgh’s media does have some questions of its own to answer. The Evening News has consistently focused on the myths and mischief making of politicians with a party axe to grind. Where was the journalistic investigation into the contract, where the forensic analysis of budgets, where the curiosity about the contractors? How have Bilfinger Berger managed to complete other projects around the world without this difficulty and is it true that the Scottish government has placed a gagging order on the company?
Today as Alex Salmond grants a public enquiry, the city council is faced with the official version of that leaked report claiming it will cost more to scrap the tram than carry on. So the Evening News has published poll results claiming most people in the city want to scrap the tram. Like all polls it begs more questions than it answers. I for one am passionately in favour of the tram. But like most people I know (whether for or against the tram) I cannot understand how the project has become such an extraordinary disaster, or who is to blame. (And I am not at all sure a public enquiry is the best use of public cash).
Apart from lack of leadership and gobsmacking inefficiency, my main criticism of the council is that it has utterly failed to present an inspiring case for the tram. It shouldn’t be difficult. The tram is a fast and energy-efficient way to connect communities across a city with a growing population; it increases social mobility and reduces congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. These are benefits which should suit the green claims of the Scottish Government. Now the SNP represents so many urban constituencies maybe the tram could begin to look more attractive?
They (and the Evening News) might take a look at Linkedin where Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce has been conducting a civilised and balanced debate with many good reasons for not scrapping the tram. Even as I write a wonderfully sane and intelligent discussion is live on the Better Nation blog. With luck some of the writers will stand for election to the city council next year!