It's been the political, and professional, privilege of my life to represent those local Edinburgh residents for nearly two decades now.
Nothing I've done in my life beforehand, and I'm sure nothing that I'll do with my life in the future; will match the hugely enriching local experiences I've had over those two decades.
But today, I'm confirming that I won't be putting my name forward for a fifth consecutive occasion, and thus will not be standing for potential re-election in 2017.
As those close to me know full well - I'm not someone who has ever envisaged my whole working life being in politics --- indeed, for well over a decade from the mid-1980's and into the 1990's, I worked in a variety of private sector environments and it wasn't until relatively late ... at 35-years of age ... that I entered front-line politics; first being elected in 1999.
I'll thus be 53-years of age in a few months time; and would be - if successfully re-elected - over 58-years of age at the end of the next Council-term in 2022 ...
... and I'm sure it won't come as a shock to close friends, family and colleagues; when I simply say I want to now move on; to focus on a different phase in my life. A phase that once again will not involve front-line politics, in any shape or form - whatsoever.
And as my family and friends also know ... whilst I can indeed be a political-anorak of the highest order, I do also maintain a wide and diverse range of personal interests outside of formal politics. Indeed, I like to think that that breadth of outside interests has helped to keep my feet on-the-ground in recent years, and also enabled me to keep my political-roles in some sort of perspective.
And I simply now want to focus on some of those personal interests in the next few years of my life. Nothing more, nothing less.
But I will always be grateful for the privilege of being in Elected Office over these last near, two-decades. Since first being elected in 1999, I've been witness to the complete transformation of politics in the UK - I think for the better - it's a subject I've blogged about before - see here in particular.
And obviously, the specific privilege of being the Council Leader, of the Capital City, of my home-Country, for the last 4-years, has been something I will always cherish.
In those 4-years, as Council Leader, I've experienced a pace of political events that's been somewhat breathtaking ... here is a short list of the most obvious:
- forming the only, two-Party, Labour/SNP Coalition, in the whole of Scottish Local Government, after the May 2012 Local Elections
- it still is the only such local Coalition
- and doing so from, and after, being in Opposition for only one term
- openly publishing a new 'Contract with the Capital'; and putting those local Coalition pledges, and their independent monitoring, into the public domain
- instigating the open webcasting of the vast majority of all Council Meetings
- then successfully seeing a new local candidate, from my Party, elected in a Ward by-election in June 2013
- seeing through a European Election in June of 2014
- working through the Scottish Referendum in the September of 2014
- quickly followed by the UK General Election of May 2015
- successfully seeing another new local candidate, from my Party, elected in a second Ward by-election in September 2015
- then the Holyrood Parliament Elections of May 2016
- that all quickly followed by the European Referendum in June 2016
- and throughout all of that, leading the local Labour/SNP Coalition and running the Capital City, with three different SNP Group Leaders (thus three different Council Deputy Leaders) within that 4-year period!
Now, not for one second would I claim that policy and delivery mistakes haven't been made - of course they have; both collectively and personally ... and it would be wholly wrong of me to personally assess our overall political performance - that is most certainly a task for others to do, in due course.
But, I am personally proud of the last 4-years ... and when it comes to local policy delivery, all I would ask is for a relevant amount of focus to be paid to, for example:
- Educational attainment for all our students
- Transport-mode usage figures
- Particularly, growth in cycling spend and general usage
- Economic performance statistics; specifically local employment figures
- The overall quantum of Social Care being delivered 'at home'
- 'Edinburgh Festivals' growth and success over recent years
- The number of 'Housing completions' in recent years
- The localised delivery of Services and Budgets, to communities
- Not to mention delivery of the Living Wage and settlement of Equal Pay issues
... to mention but a few areas.
And for more than these last 4-years; I have actually been the local Labour Group Leader for over 8-years now ... and I am unreservedly proud of being re-elected as such, at 9 consecutive Labour Group AGM's. I am extremely grateful for the trust, support, help and assistance; given by all of my Elected Labour-colleagues over those years.
I'm also very proud of the various Election Agent (and other) roles that I've undertaken for my Party at both Westminster and Holyrood levels since 1999.
And beyond the Capital City, it has also been a huge privilege - over recent years - to Chair both:
Of course, in my role as Edinburgh Council Leader, I will continue to fulfil all of these duties - to the very best of my abilities - right through until the first Thursday in May of next year.
Back in May 2012 I committed to a five-year term, and I intend to complete that term as Council Leader and finish the work that both myself, and the current Coalition, have a mandate to deliver upon.
I will not though be seeking re-selection this Autumn, and will not thus be a candidate in next year's Local Government Elections.
And most importantly of all - as I referenced at the start of this post - it really needs no repetition; but the biggest privilege has been serving local Edinburgh residents, at a Ward level, for coming up on 18-years now.
I will be forever grateful for the opportunities this most beautiful City, and its wonderful local residents, have given me.
So yes indeed ... Thank You Edinburgh.