Thursday, May 26, 2016

Edinburgh's Returning Officer urges public to register to vote

EU Referendum - the countdown begins

With just four weeks to go until the EU Referendum, citizens are being urged to ensure they know the facts about the vote.
On Thursday, 23 June, UK electors will be asked whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union or leave.

In order to vote in the referendum, individuals must be registered to vote, be over the age of 18 on 23 June 2016 and be a British or Irish citizen living in the UK.

Commonwealth citizens living in the UK who have leave to remain in the UK are also eligible to take part, as are British citizens living overseas if they were registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years.

The deadline for registering to vote in the EU Referendum is Tuesday, 7 June.

Andrew Kerr, Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh Council and Counting Officer for Edinburgh, said: “Just weeks after electing a new Scottish Parliament we face another important decision as a nation, and I hope as many people as possible join the democratic process to make their voices heard.

“It is particularly important that the public fully understand the question being asked of them in the EU Referendum, and know how and where to vote, to avoid missing out.”

Those already registered to vote should have received a poll card in the last few days. Anyone registered to vote in the Scottish Parliament Election will still be registered to vote in the EU Referendum, if eligible, unless they have changed their name or address since that election.

People who have moved house or changed their name since the last time they registered should update their details online(external link) or by post.

Find out more about how, when and where to vote online.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Council celebrates award for LGBT inclusion

Great to see this award being received, in recognition of the Council's work ...

City of Edinburgh Council celebrates award for LGBT inclusion

LGBT Youth Scotland has presented the City of Edinburgh Council’s Community and Families Service with a Foundation LGBT Charter Award today (Tuesday 24 May).

LGBT youth scotland award
John Nicholls, Director of Youth Work with LGBT Youth Scotland presents the award to Education Convener Cllr Paul Godzik and Vice Convener Cllr Cathy Fullerton

The Council received the prestigious award for its work in supporting students and training staff to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. The service carried out awareness raising activities and ensured that appropriate training and policies are in place across the city’s schools, education and support settings. 
Research(external link) shows that 70% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic, or biphobic, bullying in schools in Scotland. Transgender young people face an even harder time with 77% experiencing homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying in Scottish schools. 
This award recognises the inclusive policy, practice and support offered by the Community and Families Service to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, and promotes best practice in terms of equality.  It is an important step in recognising and addressing the inequalities many young people still face in Scotland today. 
John Nicholls, Director of Youth Work with LGBT Youth Scotland, presented the award to Cllr Paul Godzik in the City Chambers today (Tuesday 24 May). 
Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland said: “We are delighted to present City of Edinburgh Council Communities and Families Service with their Foundation LGBT Charter Mark. This is the first local authority education service in Scotland to receive this award. 
"A key highlight which ran across their submission was the development of guidance for LGBT young people in schools. This guidance was developed in partnership with LGBT Youth Scotland, and its roll out across Edinburgh schools will improve the lives of hundreds of young people, and increased the confidence of staff in knowing how to support a young person in line with GIRFEC and the UNCRC. 
“We would like to commend all staff and young people involved in this work.  It’s a real achievement and a mark of excellence for a local authority department who meaningfully commit to the inclusion lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pupils and their families.” 
Councillor Paul Godzik, Education Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to receive this award on behalf of the city from LGBT Youth Scotland.  It is testament to all the positive work that goes on across our services for children and young people, including schools, to promote equality and tackle discrimination. It’s great that LGBT Youth Scotland have recognised the efforts of our Communities and Families Service and are the first in Scotland to receive this accolade. 
"At the same time, we are delighted that Family Group Decision Making is the first smaller service to achieve the Bronze Award. All our schools have an equalities and anti-bullying policy which places equality for transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual people and tackling homophobia and transphobia at the same level of commitment as issues about race, gender, faith and disability equality. It’s important we continue this positive work to ensure our young people and staff are equipped to address these issues.”
Additional information: 
1) LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Scotland: link) 

2) LGBT Youth Scotland is a company limited by guarantee (No 244805) with charitable status (SC024047). Registered at 40 Commercial Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6J
3) Visit link) for more information on resources, and here for information on Schools Charter -

(external link)

Monday, May 23, 2016

The mechanics of local democracy ...

Had a short piece in last Tuesday's Evening News, about the behind-the-scenes 'mechanics' of our seemingly endless, election-events ... you can see it here; and I'll re-produce the main text below:


WITHOUT the thousands of staff turning out at polling stations and counts, voting would not go as smoothly, says Andrew Burns.

ALL of Scotland’s new MSPs are now sworn in, and Holyrood has started its fifth term. But before we reach the opening First Minister’s Questions of the new session, I think it’s worth pausing, putting party politics to one side, and reflecting on the sheer scale of what has just been undertaken – all relatively smoothly – across the country.

I don’t have the exact details for every part of Scotland, but here in Edinburgh just under 60 per cent of the 366,000 registered voters cast a vote – some 70,000 of them being registered for a postal vote.

Those voters were able to attend one of 145 buildings that were used as polling places, spread right across the city. Within those 145 building were 356 polling stations, each station having two ballot boxes for the respective constituency and regional ballot papers.

Among the equipment used across the polling places during election day were: about 700 yellow Post-it notes, 500 black bin bags, 145 sets of pliers and 1068 fingerettes (the rubber thimbles use by counters).

And during Thursday May 5, from 7am through to 10pm, those polling places were operated by more than 1000 polling staff – and once the polls closed, a further 1200 people were out at the Highland Hall at the Royal Highland Centre to ensure the ballot papers were tallied and counted – the Highland Hall counting area was actually larger than the size of a professional football pitch.

Many readers may well be aware that during that count process, dozens of members of political parties from across the political spectrum carefully scrutinise what goes on – physically, looking right over the shoulders of the counting staff.

It’s a process which, as I’m sure you can imagine, does occasionally get tense. Yet, in the numerous election counts I’ve attend throughout my time in Edinburgh, I have never once heard a single complaint from a member of the counting staff about the intense scrutiny they come under.

Indeed, I’m endlessly amazed at how calm, collected and polite they all are at 2am, when someone asks them a vague or outlandish question about the process they are undertaking.

At the end of it all, the results have to be agreed with the numerous political parties taking part; they have to be announced publicly to the waiting media; and – crucially – the whole process has to be seen as fair, ­thorough and professional – and the result thus accepted by all concerned in the race.

Frankly, I’m amazed that year after election year that outcome is successfully achieved; and a clear result, which is accepted as fair by all concerned, is arrived at just a few hours after the polling places close.

I, for one, think we should give huge thanks to the thousands of individuals who make this whole election process run so smoothly. The scale of what they undertake – both on polling day, and throughout the overnight count – is really quite remarkable, and we take it for granted at our democratic peril.

And, of course, while the Holyrood election may now be over, the same public servants, in the main, are now planning the detail of our next major electoral event: the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, which takes places on Thursday June 23.
If you have already registered to vote – great. If not, you have until Tuesday June 7 to get on the electoral register in order to cast your referendum ballot.

That ballot will be processed and counted by the same thousands of dedicated staff who have just ensured such a smooth Holyrood election. Regardless of our politics, they really do deserve our thanks.
Andrew Burns; Leader of Edinburgh City Council

Friday, May 20, 2016

Three schools to reopen next week as planned

Further update, as below, on local schools with confirmation that three schools will reopen next week as earlier mentioned here ...

Please do though continue to keep an eye on the following two links over coming days/weeks, which will be updated on a regular basis with any further details/adjustments:



Three schools to reopen next week

Oxgangs Primary, St Peter’s Primary and Braidburn Schools will reopen their doors to pupils and staff on Tuesday (24 May), in line with the programme published by the Council last month.

The schools had been temporarily closed whilst remedial works were carried out by the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) and their contractors. This has now been completed and all the necessary documentation has been closely scrutinised by the independent structural engineers appointed by the Council.

Five more schools are due to reopen next month – Firrhill High on 6 June, Royal High and Drummond Community High on 20 June and Broomhouse Primary and St Joseph’s Primary on 27 June. The remainder are on course to open for the start of the new term in August.

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “I am sure the parents at these three schools will be relieved to see their children back at their own schools next week. It has been a very difficult time for everyone and I want to thank parents for their patience and understanding.

“Staff at the schools and across the Council have pulled out all the stops to ensure our young people’s education could continue and they deserve praise for their commitment and flexibility.

“Our priority has always been the safety of our pupils and staff and we have insisted that Edinburgh Schools Partnership and their contractors take a belt and braces approach to these works and associated paperwork. This approach has also been reviewed by an independent expert on behalf of the Council.

“I hope parents will take comfort from the level of rigour we have applied and insisted upon throughout.

“The remedial work at the remaining schools is on track with five due to reopen in June and the remaining nine by the middle of August for the start of the new term. If we can bring forward any of these dates, we will.”

Correspondence from ESP and their contractors providing safety assurances to the Council will be published on the Council website on Monday morning.

The Council has confirmed that an independent inquiry into the school closures will commence after the summer holidays.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Pearl Izumi Tour Series

Not the best shot - but certainly catches the speed of the passing cyclists ...

... was taken on Victoria Street, as The Pearl Izumi Tour Series came to Edinburgh’s Grassmarket/City Centre - some further detail here (and below):

"Edinburgh’s fast, furious and tactical race will be staged on a new and extremely challenging 1.6-kilometre circuit that includes cobbles, a gruelling hill climb and hairpin bends.

The 500 metre cobbled climb up Victoria Street, which was used when the series last came to the city in 2014, will again form the centre piece of the race. 
In 2016 the riders will turn left at the top of the street to take in the Lawnmarket and a fast downhill section on Johnston Terrace below Edinburgh Castle, before returning to the Grassmarket via West Port."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spokes 'Favourite Cycle Rides Booklet'

I was delighted to be able to attend the informal launch of the Spokes 'Favourite Cycle Rides Booklet', recently (as pictured) ...

... you can find out more about the publication via this link - and it's only £2 if you want to buy a copy ;-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May's Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

All of the Reports are now published for May's "Corporate Policy and Strategy" Committee; it meets at 10am, next Tuesday 17th May.

All of the relevant paperwork is in the public domain: the main Agenda can be found here.

The individual reports are all on Committee Papers on-Line (CPOL) linked from here.

Some that may well be of interest:

And, of course, as usual the Policy and Strategy Committee meetings are webcast live - and thereafter archived!

All available via here --- it's TV; but not like you've ever seen before ;-)

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Allotment Update :-)

Well - no leaflets or letters to deliver; no phone-calls to make; no doors to knock ...

... so, we escaped to the Allotment for a few hours this afternoon --- and everything now seems a little bit better with the world :-)

Friday, May 06, 2016

Edinburgh's Scottish Parliament Election results

Edinburgh's Scottish Parliament Election results

The Scottish Parliament Election results for Edinburgh’s six constituencies and the Lothian Region have been announced at the Royal Highland Centre.
The Members of Scottish Parliament for each constituency and the Lothian Region List results are listed in full below and full details of the results are on the Council website: 

Edinburgh results by constituency

Edinburgh Central Constituency: Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative and Unionist

Edinburgh Eastern Constituency: Ash Denham, Scottish National Party (SNP)

Edinburgh Northern & Leith Constituency: Ben Macpherson, Scottish National Party (SNP)

Edinburgh Pentlands Constituency: Gordon MacDonald, Scottish National Party (SNP)

Edinburgh South Constituency:  Daniel Johnson, Scottish Labour Party

Edinburgh Western Constituency: Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrats
Lothian Region List Results (Based on votes from the nine Lothian Region constituencies: Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh Eastern, Edinburgh Northern & Leith, Edinburgh Pentlands, Edinburgh South, Edinburgh Western, Midlothian North & Musselburgh, Almond Valley and Linlithgow. 327, 719 votes cast across region; turnout: 57.9%)
Miles Briggs Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Alison Johnstone - Scottish Green Party
Kezia Dugdale - Scottish Labour Party
Gordon Lindhurst - Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Neil Findlay - Scottish Labour Party
Jeremy Balfour - Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Andy Wightman - Scottish Green Party
Returning Officer Andrew Kerr announced the results in the early hours of Friday, 6th May.

He said: “It is down to the hard work of many Council staff, particularly the Election Team, that this election has run so smoothly in Edinburgh, and I’d like to take this opportunity to express thanks to those involved, along with Police Scotland, the candidates and their agents, who have cooperated throughout the process.

“I would also like to thank the public for turning out to have their say, helping to ensure representative vote for the capital.”

Constituency turnout: 59.84%
Electorate: 366,165
Votes cast: 219,135

Regional turnout: 59.85%
Electorate: 366,165
Votes cast: 219,170 

This year more than 1200 people worked at the election count at the Royal Highland Centre, while a further 1000 worked during the day at the city's 145 polling places. 
For further details of the results and the Scottish Parliament Election, please see the Elections section of the Council website.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ways to vote; in person, by post or by proxy

There are several significant 'electoral events' on the imminent horizon ...

... details here, and re-produced below, outlining all you need to know about how to cast your vote:

Ways to vote

Vote in person, by post or by proxy

Most people choose to vote in person on the day of the election at their polling station. If you are not able to vote in person you can apply
  • to vote by post
  • for someone to vote on your behalf, known as a proxy vote.

Deadlines for upcoming elections

You can register to vote at any time.
The deadline to be register for the Scottis Election was Monday 18 April. 
    If you are registered, you can apply for a new proxy vote until 5pm on Tuesday 26 April.
    The deadline to register for the EU referendum is Tuesday 7 June. 

    Postal voting

    You need to apply for a postal vote(external link) if you want to vote by post.
    If your address has changed since you applied, you will need to
    If you are resident in Scotland but voting from abroad, remember it will take time for your voting pack to reach you, and for you to send it back. If you are applying close to polling day, you may find it easier to apply for a proxy vote instead.

    Proxy voting

    If you are not able to vote in person or by post then you can apply to vote by proxy(external link). This means you can ask someone to go to a polling station and vote for you. Your proxy can also apply to vote by post, if you apply early enough.
    You must apply for a proxy vote in advance - it is illegal for someone to vote for you if you have not been granted a proxy vote.

    Emergency proxy

    If you have a medical or work emergency, you can apply for an emergency proxy up until 5pm on polling day. More information about how to apply for an emergency proxy will be available closer to the time of the election.