It’s not my project – it’s the City of Edinburgh Council project and the Scottish government is providing financial support at the request of the Opposition parties in Parliament. John Swinney, SNP Finance Secretary, as quoted in the Evening News.
Maybe, but there’s a more serious question about the SNP’s sudden change of mind over the trams. Does this indicate that central government could be prepared to relinquish more of its power to local authorities? Or, only when it suits them?
Edinburgh has a peculiar relationship with the parliament. Under the old regime, die-hard west coast MSPs were accused of diverting investment from the capital to Glasgow. Under the new regime, the largely rural SNP is now accused of dipping into Edinburgh’s budget to fund a long list of ambitious schemes across the countryside (where is the money coming from to build the new Forth bridge, and widen all those trunk roads?)
Wendy Alexander (Labour’s spokeswoman for finance but soon to be new leader?) describes tram funding as essential investment in the capital’s infrastructure. But with limited powers to raise money (further complicated by SNP and Lib Dem plans to scrap council tax) how can Edinburgh plan and fund the kind of sustainable development needed in a 21st century capital city?
Leaving aside the complexities of local taxation, Edinburgh also suffers from a lack of local leadership. The bold decisisons that shaped Bilbao (see John Herrings Global Gossip) simply could not happen here. Not yet anyway. In an ideal world, a solution to that may lie in an article in Society Guardian this week where Michael Heseltine, an unlikely fan of Ken Livingstone, tells Peter Hetherington about his ambitions for city administrations headed by directly-elected mayors. He suggests that Cabinet Ministers could retire to head up local councils, improving leadership and aspirations of local authorities.
Ah, but that does pose some problems in Scotland which has always tended to export its best political talent south of the border. How about the new Prime Minister sending some of it back to put new life into the Scottish Parliament – and while they are at it, one of them might campaign to become Edinburgh’s first elected mayor. Failing that, there’s always the guy who posed as Borat.