Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Working Together: lessons in how to share power

Electoral Reform Society’s new report on coalition and minority government, entitled Working Together: lessons in how to share power, is launched today ... some information from their website follows.

Chapter 5 from yours truly ;-)


What is the best way for parties to share power? How can you make minoritygovernment work? And how do you negotiate a successful coalition?

These are some of the questions likely to be at the forefront of the party leaders’ minds over the next couple of months. As we near a General Election which is almost certain to produce a hung parliament, now is the perfect time to draw on politicians’ rich experience of power-sharing, both in the UK and across the world.

That’s why we’ve brought together a group of senior politicians to share their experience of working in coalition and minority government, in a new report entitled Working Together: lessons in how to share power.
The report offers personal insights from British and overseas politicians on how to negotiate and manage power-sharing arrangements. There are contributions from:
  • Former whip and junior minister Jenny Willott giving candid insights into her experience of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Westminster coalition
  • Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales, sharing his recollections of negotiating with Plaid Cymru and how to deal with the internal party politics of coalition
  • Andrew Burns, leader of Edinburgh City Council, on his experiences leading Scotland’s only Labour/SNP coalition council
  • Former Treasury special adviser Julia Goldsworthy on the machinery of government and how to make coalition work in Whitehall
  • Former First Minister of Scotland Lord Jack McConnell discussing his time in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, demonstrating that coalition can be long-lasting and achieve real policy change
  • Former New Zealand Labour minister and ERS Deputy Chief Executive Darren Hughes on the different ways in which minority government can be made to work

There are also important contributions from abroad, including former Irish minister Ruairi Quinn, former Prime Minister of Lower Saxony David McAllister, and Professor Dennis Pilon of Canada.

Working Together offers five key lessons for party leaders in May:
  1. For coalition to work, there needs to be a common sense of purpose – clear aims and a united vision for what the parties want to achieve together
  2. It takes time to negotiate. Deciding how to govern a country is not something that should be rushed. And sometimes, the longer it takes, the better the outcomes
  3. Parties need to sign off on any power-sharing arrangement if it is going to achieve legitimacy. This can take the form of special conferences or other means of gaining party members’ assent
  4. Power-sharing comes in numerous forms. Each nation can develop models of coalition or minority government which fit with their own political culture
  5. Coalitions aren’t easy. They need constant dialogue, good personal relationships between protagonists and mechanisms for resolving disputes if they are going to work

People’s wishes have changed. In a poll by ComRes of the 40 most marginal Conservative-Labour constituencies (ie. the areas where the traditional two-party battle ought to be fiercest), we found that:
  • 78% believe the Opposition should work with the government on issues they agree on (against just 9% who support the opposite)
  • 54% believe Parliament works best when no party is too dominant so that cross-party agreement is needed to pass laws (against just 28% who support the opposite)

People want to see multiple parties competing for their votes, and then working together when they get to Westminster. Our new report offers tips and guidance on how to do just that.

Of course, the fact our broken voting system tries to cram people’s varied wishes into a two-party framework can make the whole process of power-sharing seem far from transparent. If parties were able to negotiate based on the real wishes of voters and not the disproportionate results of First Past the Post, then coalition and minority government would have the legitimacy it needs. We badly need to get rid of our outdated electoral system.

But in the meantime, let’s make sure parties are ready to work together after 7th May.


Monday, March 23, 2015

March Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

March "Corporate Policy and Strategy" Committee is tomorrow; Tuesday 24th ...

... and all the papers/reports are now 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.

Couple of environment/energy-related reports that may well attract some attention and debate this month:

Just click on either of the above links for access (as a PDF) to the specific report ...

... and, of course, all the Policy and Strategy Committee meetings are now being webcast live - and thereafter archived!

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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

8 weeks to go until Election Day!

Make sure your voter details are up to date

Edinburgh voters should make sure their voter details are up to date, with just eight weeks to go until the UK Parliamentary Election.

Members of the public, including students and people who may have moved home since the last time they registered, are being reminded to check their registration details are correct ahead of the vote on Thursday, 7 May.

More than 84% of the city’s residents voted in the Scottish Independence Referendum in September, which saw a record-breaking turnout across the country.

Since this time last year, the number of people registered to vote has risen by more than 15,000.
But anyone who has moved home or changed their name since the Referendum will need to ensure their details are up-to-date in order to vote in May. Members of the public can register or update their details online (external link) using the Government website by 20 April. 

Dame Sue Bruce, Chief Executive of City of Edinburgh Council and Returning Officer for Edinburgh, said: “It is crucial that voters’ registration details are correct in order to have their say in the election, so I would urge all those who are unsure to check they are registered. 

“We saw a record high turnout for the Scottish Independence Referendum last year and it would be great to continue this enthusiasm into the UK Parliamentary Election in May.”

The City of Edinburgh Council has launched a campaign to promote voter awareness and voter registration ahead of the election, along with the Lothian Valuation Joint Board.

The drive will use social media, news releases and other promotional material to share information and advice on taking part in the election. 

Find out where, when and how to vote on the Council website.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Council backs campaigner's call for more accessible taxis

My SNP-colleague, Gavin Barrie (who Chairs the Regulatory Committee), and I met with Gordon Aikman (pictured) yesterday ...

... the meeting arose out of Gordon's difficulties in getting, timeously, to a conference event in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Gordon was actually supposed to be introducing Ed Miliband at the EICC event - and missed his alloted time due to problems with taxi pick-up.

Here's the resulting News Release - both Gavn and I are determined to do all we can to ensure this doesn't happen again:
Council backs disabled campaigner's call for more accessible taxis

Council Leader, Andrew Burns and Convener of the Regulatory Committee, Cllr Gavin Barrie met with charity campaigner, Gordon Aikman yesterday to discuss concerns about taxi accessibility in Edinburgh.
Recently Mr Aikman, who has motor neurone disease, struggled to find a taxi that was able accommodate his wheelchair. He was due to introduce Ed Miliband at the Labour Party Conference in the capital but missed the opportunity after two taxis he called were unable to pick him up - one because the electric ramp was not working and the other because he ‘took too long to come down’.

Cllr Burns said: “What happed to Gordon is of course completely unacceptable and the purpose of today’s meeting was to discuss what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We have identified steps that we can take as the licensing authority for taxis in the city, to ensure that these vehicles are accessible to wheelchair users.

“For example, we will be cracking down on drivers who fail to stop for disabled customers and increasing the number of spot checks to check that the taxis’ ramps are operational. We will also be calling for taxi companies to review their allocated waiting time for collections with a view to extending this for people with mobility issues.

“We want to make sure that wheelchair users in Edinburgh have a positive experience when using taxis and I would like to thank Gordon for highlighting this very important issue.”

Other actions agreed include a review of the current driver training arrangements to improve accessibility training and looking at introducing refresher courses. Taxi drivers who are exempt from manually loading wheelchairs for health reasons may also be asked to display a prominent sign on their vehicle indicating that they are not accessible.

The agreed measures will now be taken forward by the Council, led by Councillor Gavin Barrie as Convener of the Regulatory Committee.

Welcoming the outcome of yesterday’s meeting, Gordon Aikman said: "This crackdown is very welcome. Wheelchair or not, each and every one of us should be able to get into a cab and get from A to B without any hassle.

"I've only been in a wheelchair for a couple of weeks, but have been shocked by the treatment disabled folk have to put up with.

"I'm confident this Access Action Plan will help make taxis in our capital more accessible. I hope other councils follow Edinburgh's lead. This is not about special treatment - it is about equal access. No disabled person should have to put up with second rate service."



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New SNP Group Leader ...

Local readers will no doubt be aware that there's been some 'change-at-the-top' of the City Council SNP Group, following their AGM earlier this evening ...

... long-standing SNP Group Leader, Steve Cardownie, has stood down from the top job, and been replaced by Sandy Howat as Group Leader - and Sandy will, Thursday's Council Meeting permitting, be Council Deputy Leader in due course.

At a personal level, I’ve really enjoyed working with Steve, and will be sorry to see him return to the SNP backbenches. Politics is though a pretty rough trade, and internal change does sometimes happen.
Most crucially, despite any changes at an individual level, the local Labour/SNP Coalition will continue; as we collectively understand the importance of continuity and stability for Scotland’s Capital City.
And I do now look forward to working with Sandy, who I’ve known well since 1996/7 ...

... and both of our respective Groups continue to have every intention of ensuring this unique Coalition remains in place right through to May 2017.

Our Coalition-agreement remains completely unchanged, and our focus remains on doing what is best for Edinburgh

Saturday, March 07, 2015

March Leader's Report

Leader's Report

March 2015

School attainment 


Andrew Burns
Top marks to our schools who have once again achieved really encouraging exam results.

A report at this week's Education, Children & Families Committee showed significant improvements since 2009 and, in many cases, our young people are now performing above the national average.

What makes these figures even more impressive is that they have been achieved against the backdrop of new exams coming on board. As a parent I know first hand what a challenge that has been and it's credit to the hard work of both staff and pupils that these results have been so good.

I'm also pleased to see that the attainment gap between schools in areas of deprivation and other parts of the city is closing. Tackling disadvantage is a key priority for us and I know that everyone is collectively committed to reducing this gap even further.

Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh


Dame Sue Bruce 


Our chief executive, Dame Sue Bruce, advised me earlier this week that she is to retire from local government service on reaching her 60th birthday in October.

Sue has successfully tackled some key challenges during her time as Chief Executive and has achieved real progress for the Council. Of particular note was her leadership in resolving the tram dispute, paving the way for the completion of the project and successful launch of passenger services last May, and her decisive yet sensitive handling of the Mortonhall baby ashes investigation.

From the outset, she has worked tirelessly and well beyond the normal expectations of the role, particularly in relation to charity work and improving the job prospects of young people across Edinburgh, and I have no doubt that she will continue to play her part in public life.


Restoring stability to Lothian Buses 


As majority shareholder in Lothian Buses, the Council is duty-bound to ensure that Lothian Buses can continue to build on its many successes.

Recent troubles at management level have been a concern but we are encouraged by the progress being made by Interim Chair Tony Depledge to restore stability. I am confident that the changes announced this week will help Lothian Buses make further strides towards better and more effective management.

Last week, we announced the appointment of KPMG to carry out a review into recent events at Lothian Buses, including the Council's involvement. We look forward to receiving their report in the coming weeks before it's considered by the Governance, Risk & Best Value Committee.


Towards a City Deal 


Manchester was in the news recently having secured more spending powers, or 'Devo Manc', from Westminster. And closer to home Glasgow has successfully negotiated their own 'City Deal', unlocking millions of pounds of potential infrastructure investment.

So, I am pleased to report that we, in partnership with our five neighbouring local authorities, have signed up to pursue a deal for the Edinburgh City Region.

Our next step will be to seek UK and Scottish Government agreement on the development of a detailed proposition; one that we believe will ensure continued growth and reduction in inequality across one of Europe's most successful city region economies.


This is Edinburgh 


I was delighted that the 'This is Edinburgh' campaign won the award for Creative Marketing at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards earlier this week.

creative concept having been developed by Edinburgh based The Lane Agency, has played a key role in helping to drive footfall to our city centre and the award was in recognition of the significant impact this campaign has had - and continues to have.

The latest element of the campaign, Edinburgh Fashion Week, launches this weekend in the shape of the marquee on the Mound, hosted by the city's leading retailers and independent stores, followed by a full programme of events and offers running throughout the week.


Hans Rissmann 


Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish the outgoing Chief Executive of Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Hans Rissmann, all the very best for his retirement, which officially begins this month.

Hans hosted over 3,000 events, shook hands with the Queen, and most members of the Royal Family, and had champagne with Nelson Mandela during his 22 years at the helm of the EICC.
His will be a hard act to follow but, having met his replacement, Marshall Dallas, I have every confidence in the ongoing success of this world class venue.


Stay in the picture 


Keep yourself in the picture with our news section online. Watch live full Council and some committee meetings on our webcast. Join the debate on Twitter #edinwebcast

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Friday, March 06, 2015

March Council Meeting

The regular March Council Meeting is coming up - next Thursday (12th) ... 

... all the reports are now up on Committee Papers On-Line (CPOL) and you can access the main agenda directly here; and each of the individual reports separately via this link.

Of course - as ever, if you're so minded, you can watch all the proceedings live here ...

... or the meeting will be archived a few hours after it finishes for viewing at your leisure!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Saughton Park Newsletter + public consultation


Issue 5 : Feb 2015

Welcome to our first Newsletter of 2015!
We have been working hard to develop our master plan proposals ready for our five week public consultation which is due to commence Monday 2 March.  Read on to find out how you can view the proposals and have your say.

Developing the master plan

Following on from the ‘Ideas Exhibition’ on 16 December our designers have been developing their ideas further. 
It’s all looking very exciting with plans for the old stable buildings and yard to be converted into a great space for learning, volunteering and for holding events and markets.  Public toilets and a new cafĂ© with views out to the gardens will also be located here.
The proposals include a new home for the bandstand, wonderful ideas for the gardens, improved access to the park and much more.  However we don't want to give too much away so you’ll need to come along to one of our exhibitions or go online to see the designs!!
The master plan for the park does not just include the landscape and buildings.  We are also putting together a programme of events and activities which we hope will provide something for everyone, whether you are interested in history or horticulture, theatre or art, fitness or fun!
Details of how you can find out what is being proposed and how you can have your say is covered on the next page.
It’s important to let us know what you think.  The next stage of the design process will be to develop the detailed designs ready for our Heritage Lottery Fund bid submission in August.  Changes to the detailed designs will be limited afterwards so make sure you get involved and have your say before 6 April when the consultation closes!

Snow! Snow! Snow!

Oh no, my body is gone slushy!

Parks for People

Find out more about the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Parks for People’ programme on their website www.hlf.org.uk

The public consultation will run for a period of five weeks starting from Monday 2 March until Monday 6 April. You can view the designs and compete a questionnaire in the following ways: Online at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/saughtonpark
Come along to one of the following exhibitions where you can also talk to staff: Or simply come along to one of the following unstaffed exhibitions:

Fri 6 Mar
10 am to 3 pm
Winter Garden, Saughton Park
Sat 14 Mar
10 am to 3 pm
Spring Fever Event, Saughton Park
Thu 19 Mar
6 pm to 9 pm
Slateford Green Community Centre
Wed 25 Mar
1 pm to 6 pm
Carrickvale Community Centre
Sat 28 Mar
12 noon to 3 pm
Winter Garden, Saughton Park
Sat 4 Apr
12 noon to 3 pm
Easter Bear Hunt, Saughton Park

The public consultation will run for a period of five weeks starting from Monday 2 March until Monday 6 April. You can view the designs and compete a questionnaire in the following ways: Online at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/saughtonpark
Come along to one of the following exhibitions where you can also talk to staff: Or simply come along to one of the following unstaffed exhibitions:

Mon 2 Mar to Mon 6 Apr Winter Garden, Saughton Park
Mon 2 Mar to Sun 8 Apr Fountainbridge Library
Mon 9 Mar to Sun 15 Mar
Central Library
Mon 16 Mar to Sun 22 Mar
St Bride’s Community Centre
Mon 23 Mar to Sun 29 Mar
Carrickvale Community Centre
Mon 30 Mar to Wed 1 Apr
Hermitage of Braid Visitor Centre
Thu 2 Apr to Mon 6 Apr Sainsbury’s, Murrayfield Store

You can also request a paper copy to be sent out or find out more the following ways:
Web Page:         www.edinburgh.gov.uk/saughtonpark
Email:                 parks@edinburgh.gov.uk
Phone:               0131 529 3030

The Friends of Saughton Park will have the chance to discuss proposals at their meeting on 5 March at the Winter Garden, Saughton Park from 7 pm.
We will also be attending the following Community Councils to give them an update:
Gorgie Dalry CC:  Mon 2 Mar at 7 pm     
Hutchinson Chesser CC:  Mon 9 Mar at 7.30 pm 
Stenhouse, Saughton Mains and Whitson CC:  Mon 16 Mar at 7 pm       
Read on to find out more about Spring Fever, Easter Bear Hunt and what else is happening in the park.

New look consultation poster

During the consultation period, two fun days are planned at Saughton Park.  Staff will also be on hand to talk about the proposals and help you complete a questionnaire:
Saughton Spring Fever
Sat 14 Mar 10 am until 3 pm
Come along and enjoy a host of horticultural based activities:
¨ Community Gardening taster sessions with the Scottish Rural College
¨ Kids Gardening Activities with the Caley
¨ Caley Grow & Learn Programme Showcase
¨ Craighall Day Centre Photo Exhibition 
¨ Inch Nursery Plant Sales
¨ Refreshments by FoSP
Saughton Easter Bear Hunt
Sat 4 Apr 12 noon until 3 pm
Join us for Easter fun for all the family:
¨ Easter Bear Treasure Hunt with prizes
¨ Children’s art and crafts activities
¨ Storytelling or similar
¨ Refreshments by FoSP
Other things are planned for the summer and we’ll give you more details once the consultation has finished.

Bring on the spring fever ...

… and get the bears out of hibernation!

Shark attack in the park?

January and February has been a relatively quiet month for  events and activities.
However we did have a highlight in February when, thanks to funding from the Scottish Book Trust,  Balgreen Nursery School  brought renowned children’s author and illustrator Nick Sharratt to Saughton Park when he read from his book ‘Shark in the Park’.
Nick then led the children on a wild adventure through Saughton Park as they looked through homemade telescopes for the sinister dark fin of the elusive shark!!

Shark hunters in the park.

Growing the friends of Saughton park

The Friends of Saughton Park (FoSP) continue to grow.  Their History sub-group are busy collecting stories and photographs about the 1908 Scottish National Exhibition as well as creating a 3D computer model of Saughtonhall, the 17th century house which stood in the garden.
Contact Joe McGuigan joe.m.mcguigan@btinternet.com if you would like further information about this History group, to attend the meetings or to contribute stories and photos.
The Community Garden sub-group has been allocated, on a temporary basis, the old blind garden space which has declined over the years.  The FoSP were recently awarded some funding and are using the money to buy tools, equipment, seeds and plants which will be used to improve the garden.  They are very excited about the prospect of growing fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs that local people can use. 
If you want to get involved in the Community Garden group please contact Kirsten Thorburn kirsten.thorburn@gmail.com.
The next Friends of Saughton Park meeting is on Thursday 5 March at 7 pm in the Winter Garden.  Everyone is very welcome to come along.

Himalayan birch in winter colours.

Contact us

Are you interested in Volunteering?  We provide support and training. Tea and biscuits also supplied!
Email us at parks@edinburgh.gov.uk or call 0131 529 3030

And now for other news

Look out for Lorna Kirk, a community support worker for Skills Path, along with two trainees with mild learning disabilities who will be working in the gardens on Thursdays.  This work will help the trainees improve their skills as well as their confidence and self esteem.
A group from Garvald Edinburgh, an organisation that offers creative opportunities and support for people with learning disabilities, is about to start working at Saughton.   Their contribution to the care and maintenance of the park will allow both people and plants to blossom.
A group of P5 pupils from St Cuthbert’s Primary School will be planting two large wildflower ‘Living Landscape’ meadows as part of their John Muir Award. Not only will this be a beautiful and interesting addition to the park, it will provide  an important food source for bees and insects.

Food for bees and insects.