It’s campaign time and on May the 3rd voters will choose the future of the city transport.
Transport had been in the spotlight in recent years due to the troubled tram project. Now Edinburgh faces another challenge with European Union strict standards on air pollution. The Green party have highlighted the deadline for the city to reach acceptable air pollution levels by 2015. If the council do not meet these targets the taxpayer will face a heavy financial penalty.
Spokes is an Edinburgh charity organisation that focuses on bicycle transport but also green issues. A hustings was held on Thursday 29th March to question the councillors responsible for this important issue.
A new campaign has been launched today by school pupils in south Edinburgh.
“Just give me a minute” highlights the small amount of time lost to a driver if they travel at 20mph rather than 30mph. The speed difference will save lives according to experts.
A 20mph speed limit along residential streets from Arthurs Seat to Blackford Hill has had the support of 70% of local people and will cost £100,000. Casualties have been reduced by 30-50% when the scheme has been introduced in other parts of the city road.
The change has also been an attempt to improve cycling safety where three fatalities have taken place over the last few months.
The campaign will continue to be promoted through adverts on radio, buses and bus shelters.
This week volunteers, business people, residents and council workers have been cleaning up the Royal Mile. The work is helping to conserve and manage the famous street to stop its reputation slipping. After a workshop organised by the council thirty people split into groups of four to repaint, pick up litter and remove graffiti from Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street and the Canongate. A Royal Mile Manager will be appointed to help make the street “feel better” to walk around and the council believe the project will continue over 15 to 20 years. Edinburgh Napier News visited the Royal Mile today to have a look at this weeks result and find out people’s thoughts.
Gordon Brown at the turn of the century highlighted a new idea. That idea was “community radio” which has become, according to Ofcom the broadcasting regulator, “one of the great UK broadcasting success stories in the last few years”. The journey has not been easy and certainly isn’t over but despite recession, stiff competition and “Broken Britain” volunteers from all over the UK still want a sense of belonging and new ways to communicate.
One such community can be found in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland. Its port area, called Leith, has always straggled between boom and bust both economically and culturally. In the 16th century the royal burgh was the launching pad for Scottish Kings to set sail for war and Mary Queen of Scots started her grandiose arrival here. The industrial revolution saw Leith as a major ship building port but the depression of the late 20th century witnessed a decline the burgh is still recovering from. This depression became world famous in the iconic Danny Boyle film Trainspotting. Despite all this attention Leith still remains the poor relative of its neighbour Edinburgh but its strong community spirit has looked hard for ways to improve life. One foundation has been the annual Leith Festival, an arts celebration the origins of which go back to the beginning of the 20th century. The festival, whose fortunes have matched the economic decline of the area, had to find something new and innovative to meet the 21st century.
Leith goes radio ga ga
Local radio in Leith was the brainchild of a man called Charles Fletcher; a former correspondent with Sky News and the BBC World Service. Having set up a local short term broadcast with the nearby South Queensferry community, Fletcher introduced a Restricted Service Licence (RSL) in 2002 to the Leith Festival but according the Mary Moriarty, one of the committee members, it was not an easy idea;
“Charles came to us and asked if Leith Festival would like to do a week of radio broadcasts. He would approach local businesses and the whole thing would cost five thousand pounds. Of course the Leith Festival Committee was quite aghast at that amount! We didn’t really have that kind of money”
During 2003 Fletcher and the Festival Committee worked hard to raise the money but failed to achieve their objective. Charles Fletcher stood down but one DJ, Tony Leech, was inspired by his adventures as a youth with a home-made CB (Citizen’s Band) radio, decided not to give up. Luck was on their side, the money was found and the team grew. Following a successful Leith Festival and a full week of broadcasting the RSL was repeated a year later for two full weeks. Further success prompted the creation of Leith Community Mediaworks (LCM) to deliver community radio and TV to the people of Leith. The venture was risky but fortunately, as Mary explains, the spirit and skills of the volunteers overcame those hurdles;
“Most the people who were involved were local, they really seemed to know their stuff about radio and the presenters were excellent. Downstairs in the Leith Dockers Club there were lots and lots of lovely young people coming in, talking and playing their music. There was a real buzz and it was so exciting”
People do criticise New Labour but they got one thing right in 2004 and that was community radio. The idea, in media terms, is an old one and was hinted at in the Broadcasting Act 1990. This Act was used and adjusted to allow Ofcom to make an announcement on the 1st of September 2004 welcoming applications for Community Radio Licences on FM (Very High Frequency) or AM (Medium Wave).
In autumn 2004 LCM decided to apply for the Leith licence but Ofcom were overwhelmed by applications so it took till February 2006 for the licence to be granted. Leith FM was officially launched in March 2007on waveband 98.8FM and on Monday May 7th. 2007 the first full live broadcast spread across the city. Others in Scotland had the same idea; Awaz FM, an ethnic minority station in Glasgow, progressed from being a very successful pilot scheme for the Radio Authority, and Revival FM based in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire serving Christian listeners was the first start-up from scratch.
Since 2004 community radio has blossomed and there are over 180 licences across the UK. Leith FM has grown too with 150 members and 60 regular presenters. The station hits well above its weight to meet Ofcom’s community criteria with shows in French, Polish plus specialist shows in North African and Asian music. Getting serious, local radio is recognised by the government as a source of local news and current affairs and since Christmas 2009 Leith FM has built up a news-team, giving local and worldwide news bulletins four times a week. Politics from the nearby Parliament can be heard on Noise Up! – a programme which covers, for example, the First Ministers Question Time on a Thursday afternoon and then an interview with a local politician. Local MP Mark Lazarowicz has been a regular guest on the show;
“It has been a good initiative for Leith. It has a real connection with the community. People do pick things up from the programme – people on the street and not just a few which is good. I’ve been on air for political and current affairs based issues and you always get a pretty rigorous cross-examination. It’s a very good radio station.”
Community radio also broadcasts the stalwarts of community information such as government advice on “How to keep warm this winter” repeated on the hour every hour during the recent heavy cold snap. Charities have also benefited from Leith FM with the local Bethany group, which deals with homelessness, allowing those struggling with life the opportunity to take part in music shows and further their contribution to society.
Radio can be a great focus for the disabled. The medium is all about sound and touch so many blind and partially sighted people use it as a way of accessing and performing to a wide audience. One presenter, Alan Dudley, performs Leith Talk on a Thursday afternoon using a volunteer assistant and a brail-based keyboard. I have had the pleasure of assisting Alan “Cuddly” Dudley and his guide dog Demy on a number of occasions and it’s impressive how accommodating radio can be.
Keeping with the tradition of being a port Leithers have emigrated across the world and in this Diaspora Leith FM has found a new audience. With evolving new media the station has a presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The station manager Mohammed Bouchkal is keen to keep up with the online community;
“We do get a few international responses and we put a map, a tracking map, on the website where you can see all the red dots where people are listening from – places you think could never pick up Leith FM!”
Having formed part of one local entertainment event, Leith Festival, the station has ventured into the world famous annual Edinburgh Festival with interviews and reviews of well known and upcoming entertainers. Past guests include Sir Anthony Hopkins, Foster & Allen and Jimmy Osmond.
The New Recruit
Rehan Yousef is a 28 year old former TV and film student who is a convert to radio. He’s enthusiastic and very ambitious about his Asian music show on Monday nights;
“My dream is to have a show where one week we’re talking about a local issue then another week talk about an international issue but maybe something people haven’t really heard of. We did a story on Sri Lanka and the constitutional crisis and we weren’t sure it would work but we had a wee bit of feedback, at first; ‘What’s going on? this is Leith FM!’ but after the show they were saying; ‘you know what – this is really interesting and I’ve learnt something!”
Rough air waves
Not all attempts at community radio have been successful. Six stations failed to start while three have had to return their licence. Charles Fletcher, who had introduced local broadcasting to Leith, failed to establish a bigger venture in nearby South Queensferry. According to Professor Anthony Everitt, author of the 2003 local radio report New Voices, community radio is in constant fear of closure. Everitt’s recommendations have formed the basis for government legislation but the Community Radio Fund (CRF) is well below the £3-4million he wants. When the CRF was set up in 2005 it was £500k per year and only 14 stations, but since then very little has been done to support the boom in licence holders. A campaign was launched in 2009 by Professor Everitt and 82 community radio leaders, media scholars and experts including representatives of 60 community radio stations. A petition gathered over 1700 signatures and an open letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown pointed out, amongst other issues, the fact that 150 community radio stations receive less funding than a Radio One breakfast DJ. Looking to the continent is furthering their argument with France providing 25 million Euros annually to 600 community radio stations.
On-air and off-air life has not always been easy for Leith FM. As with all small voluntary ventures there have been bust-ups and trouble organising everything. In September this year Leith FM found itself on a list with fourteen other community radio stations in breach of their licence conditions having failed to submit an annual report to Ofcom on time. The main issues have been more fundamental to staying on-air and Mohammed Bouchkal believes the stations problem is keeping the books balanced;
“We’re keeping it afloat at the moment but we do need a lot of money to keep the station going. We do try to keep a good contact with the Scottish Parliament so they can help but I think most of the money goes to other organisations such as cancer research – more serious things than a radio station”
Freddie Roddick, presenter and scheduling Manager believes that membership is tricky;
“The big problems I’ve come across are volunteers coming and going and , especially at this time of year, trying to find new volunteers to fill positions. A lot of volunteers work during the day so trying to find people for daytime positions is a nightmare!”
And of course, says Mary Moriarty, everyone wants to be the star but not necessarily do the donkey work;
“There is a priority for people just to be presenters and, probably, that is as much as they want to do which is quite right but I think for the advancement of Leith FM it would be more encouraging if everybody took part to make it better”
Things are still fresh at Leith FM with volunteers learning all the time. The team were, along with many others, pioneers in local media and despite hardship the station has continued to sail along. The media world changes quickly and the FM signal itself has been threatened by digital technology which, at the moment, is far less accommodating and flexible than the traditional medium. Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister, stated last July that the Government will not trash analogue radio once the digital switchover takes place in 2015 but it will encourage listeners to go digital as quickly as possible. The new technology is growing steadily with 11m digital radios sold in the UK serving 24% of listeners. Where will Leith FM and community radio fit in this new world? It is probably too early to tell but it runs the risk of being marginalised by wealthier companies buying up the airwaves, and community radio stations lack the expensive technology to broadcast digitally. But smaller commercial stations will face the same difficulties so community radio is certainly not alone. Leith’s community will also change. The area is now targeted as one of the main centres for renewable energy construction in Scotland. Tourism will also transform the area with a growing cruise liner industry and the possible resurrection of the stalled tram project. As can be seen in other city port redevelopments the results do not necessarily improve community cohesion and can even be destructive.
The most recent announcement from Ofcom repeats the “genuine success story” mantra of community radio. Despite “Broken Britain” people still need a sense of belonging and this is strong in Leith. The burgh has always been proud of its distinct, working class and community driven ideals which soak into every pour of Leith FM and flows out again across the airwaves, hopefully for a long time to come.
Finance Minister John Swinney will face angry MSPs today as a storm surrounding Scottish taxes has erupted at Holyrood.
The controversy surrounds what is known as the “tartan tax”, powers to change income tax in Scotland 3 pence to the pound, and has been a part of devolution since the Scottish Parliament was voted for in 1997. MSPs have recently discovered that no structure has been put in place to use the power, which could raise £1 billion per year. Alex Salmon, First Minister, has defended the delay;
“No Scottish administration has used the 3p tax power, none of the main parties in Scotland advocate using it now”
Despite the tax not being used the power has been maintained at a price. The start-up cost was £12million and was held up until 2007 at £50,000 per year. The SNP stopped paying in 2007 when HM Revenues and Customs wanted to upgrade computer systems at the cost of £7 million.
Tavish Scott, the Liberal Democrat leader at Holyrood, has accused the government of a “cover up”, and Malcolm Chisholm, Labour MSP, has questioned the transparency of the Parliament when the finance minister continuously failed to reveal the situation early enough. Mr Swinney has said he will reflect on these issues before addressing MSPs this afternoon.
First Minister Alex Salmond has reacted to the controversy by writing to Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary who highlighted the discrepancies, by claiming that the Scottish Government had made a request in 2007 for details on the computer changes but had only received the £7 million bill in 2010. The letter also claims that any IT changes were the responsibility of the ministry in charge and not the Scottish Government.
John Swinney will not welcome further criticism, with Professor David Bell of Stirling University having written a report stating that a freeze in council tax will not help the Scottish economy. The continued freeze, now in its fourth year, will save according to Professor Bell just 0.3% per household. Councils have also complained that the savings of £900 million will not lead to efficiencies but cuts in services.
An attack in Leith Walk resulted in a man being scarred for life. The assault took place this week at the City Limits bar in the city centre.
The 37-year-old man was drinking in the pub with friends when they were confronted by a group of men who started to racially abuse them. One of the gang grabbed a pint glass and smashed it on the head of the victim. Badly cut, the victim was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary before going to St Johns Hospital for plastic surgery.
The alleged racist assault is one of a number of such attacks that have happened in the capital over the last few months. In October a young man had his jaw broken on Waverley Bridge, the car of an Asian family was vandalised and a mother of four has been the target of a hate mail campaign.
The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) new procedures have been put in place in 2010 after the McPherson report into the death of Stephen Lawrence in London. Chief Constable Ian Latimer, Chair of the ACPOS Equality and Diversity Business Area said:
“Hate crime divides our communities and has a devastating effect on victims, their family members and the wider community. The Scottish Police Service recognises the impact this type of crime has on our communities and is committed to tackling it and supporting those who have been a victim”
According to the Scottish Government Racist Incidents Recorded by the Police in Scotland, 2004-05 to 2008-09, the number of crimes in the capital increased from 599 in 2004-05 to 1,179 in 2006-07 although the number did drop last year. In 2008 the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith predicted that violent crime and far-right extremism would increase in the UK, based on the 1991-1992 recession. Current statistics do not reflect any significant change due to the credit crunch
The Waterfront project of Edinburgh is the centre of a row between two city councillors. The £84 million port development will be presided over by an executive group but how that group will be made up is an issue of concern to local councillor Gordon Munro.
Leith Councillor Gordon Munro would like to see leaders of Leith and Forth Neighbourhood Partnerships included in the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Executive Group to represent local views. This request has been rejected by the leader of the City Council Jenny Dawe but she welcomed local interest groups to TIF meetings. Her opinion was echoed by deputy leader of the council Steve Cardownie, a Forth Ward councillor, who added that lay people would not fit with representatives of the port property owners, Forth Ports. Cllr Munro gave Edinburgh Napier News his reaction;
“”There needs to be local input into the discussion. Local representation is needed on this committee and a signal to the local community that any mortgage taken out by the city council for infrastructure developments in Leith will benefit – Leith as a whole and not just a business plan for Forth Ports. I was disappointed the council leader and deputy leader did not recognise that community concern. Leith has been railroaded off the agenda of the developer”
The TIF Group as it stands will consist of one representative of the Scottish Government, two from Forth Ports and three Officers from the City of Edinburgh Council. The group will preside over a loan, based on future business prospects, which will cover four main projects: a new link road between Seafield Road and Constitution Street, an esplanade and events centre outside Ocean Terminal, a new pier for the Royal Yacht Britannia and cruise ships, and new lock gates for Leith Harbour.
Leith Councillor and Deputy Lord Provost Rob Munn, member of the Policy and Strategy Committee who considered the Tax Increment Finance Report, defended the council decision;
“If you included politicians into that Executive Group then your politicizing the matter. The group’s task is to bring forward the projects and put them before politicians. Politicians will then make the decisions”
“In terms of the local community I talked to the Director for City Development, Dave Anderson, and organised a meeting with Leith Harbour and Newhaven Community Council in early December and the Leith Links Community Council. He is keen to do that and set up a sounding board with the local community involving the Neighbourhood Partnerships which is a cross-section including city councillors and other interested parties”
The nominations for the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards have been declared. The awards, introduced in 1999, are for politicians from all walks of life – from local authorities to Westminster.
The annual awards are based on nine categories including the Politician of the Year, Public Campaign of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award.
The winners will be announced at the Prestonfield House Hotel on November the 18th. The awards aim to encourage political performance and bring together key individuals in business and politics in Scotland. The nominees and winners are chosen by a panel of judges in what has been described, by key sponsors The Herald, as heated debates.
Running for Politician of the Year are Health Secretary and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Labour leader Iain Gray, Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott and convener of Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee Hugh Henry. Henry is the first back bencher at the Scottish Parliament to be nominated for the top award. His work attracted attention in 2010 through the Audit Committees scrutiny of senior Civil Servants and First Minister Alex Salmond’s controversial handling of the Homecoming event, the Gathering. Hugh Henry told Edinburgh Napier News:
“I’m surprised but honoured to have been nominated. I hope that this will reflect the good work done by many backbenchers over many years in the parliament”
The most popular award is the Public Campaign or Campaigner of the Year. This year’s award nominees include Tina McGeever, who’s late husband Michael Gray was denied drugs to combat cancer, and she has tried to stop the post-code lottery on new medicines in Scotland. The second campaign nominee is stalking victim Ann Moulds who has campaigned successfully to make such behaviour a crime. Finally Kelly McGee who has worked hard on mandatory sentences for knife crime after her brother Paul, a Scots Guard, was stabbed and killed outside the family home in Lochwinnoch.
One award has remained a secret and that is Lifetime Achievement. According to The Herald, two excellent candidates have been nominated but judges had difficulty coming to an agreement.
The Awards have had their share of bad behaviour. In 2004 Lord Watson of Invergowrie set fire to curtains at the Prestonfield Hotel, and in 2007 Matthew Marr, chief press aide to then Labour leader Wendy Alexander, became abusive to guests and the staff. Both men resigned from political life.
Winning, however, does not necessarily lead to success. In last years awards Steven Purcell won Councillor of the Year but stepped down from Glasgow City council in March this year due to a drugs scandal.
Last year’s Politician of the Year was won by John Swinney MSP, pictured, but the Finance Secretary could be excused for having other things on this mind with the pending budget speech to Holyrood on November the 17th.
A local group has hit out at plans to hold public events on the proposed biomass plant at Edinburgh’s waterfront.The green energy proposal has been controversial since December 2009 and opposed by local groups and politicians.
Local organisation Leith Links Residents Association oppose plans to build a biomass plant in the port and have reacted angrily to Forth Energy, the company behind the scheme, and their forthcoming public consultations in Edinburgh during November.
Rob Kirkwood, spokesperson for the Leith Links Residents Association, told Edinburgh Napier News;
“This is an attempt to dress up the biomass incinerator in green clothes but the clothes don’t fit for a number of reasons. The consultation’s green make-up will fool the public”
An open letter to the Scottish Parliament was signed in October by local politicians including Edinburgh North and Leith MP Mark Lazarowicz and Lothians MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville. The letter claims that the biomass plant will use unsustainable woodchips as fuel, and that the carbon-debt of Scotland would not be met without further evidence. The Scottish Government responded to the letter claiming that all representation and interest groups would be considered in the final decision.
Rob Kirkwood highlighted the Leith Links Residents Association grounds for opposing the plant;
“the Forth Ports’ claims of reducing health effects are wrong. The Seafield Sewage works has created clouds of hydrogen sulphide – we will be living in clouds of dioxins. There will be noise and traffic – the place will be lit up like a football stadium”
“Forth Ports have lost their residential projects and this is a quick money-making scheme”
Forth Energy have argued back highlighting the potential in high energy supply, green technology, employment benefits and a proposed study into health concerns. Edinburgh residents will have an opportunity to pose questions to Forth Energy at the public consultations .
The Leith area has been a focus for renewable energy having been picked out last February as the ideal place to build turbines for offshore wind farms. The area will receive a boost from First Minister Alex Salmond’s announcement on the 2nd of November that £70 million will be invested in Scotland as a National Renewables Infrastructure Fund. Part of the investment will be the development of manufacturing and delivery of offshore wind turbines.
Forth Energy refused to comment to Edinburgh Napier News on the public consultation process.
Despite the credit crunch police chiefs received bonuses. Lothian and Borders police superintendents and chief constables shared tens of thousands of pounds of tax payers money over the last year
First Minister Alex Salmond commented in this weeks Scottish Nationalist Party conference that police forces will go through big changes because of the Westminster spending review. The chief officers shared £78,000 despite last years crime detection rate of 43% – the lowest in Scotland.
Iain Whyte, the convener of the police board, admitted to the Scotsman that staff are unhappy and 212 frontline police will share a bonus of just £34,000. When the scheme was set up in 2005 bonuses were intended to be confidential but a recent Freedom of Information request opened up the scandal.
Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, told local community radio station Leith FM; “Lothian and Borders Police force is an excellent police force. We are remarkably well served by police officers in every force in Scotland but Lothians Police are outstanding as well, and any criticism of them is unfair and indeed false” Mr MacAskill did not support the system as it stands; “this is a matter for the police board but I would hope that they bare in mind that those with the broadest shoulders should take the heaviest burden. Those who have got the highest salaries shouldn’t be seeking additional bonuses”
The bonuses are part of performance related payments set by the Police Negotiating Board. The PNB helps create Personal Development Reviews for each officer which outlines measured goals that have to be met – one of them is crime detection. The scheme was started in 2007 aiming to provide incentives to improve police performance. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) each review allows an officer to understand his or her place in the force. A spokesperson for ACPOS said “The payment of performance related bonuses is a matter for the eight Chief Constables and their respective Police Authorities or Boards”” The Office of Manpower Economics, who support the PNB, declined to comment to Edinburgh Napier News.
Next week a renowned Buddhist Lama is visiting Scotland giving students from all over the world a special experience. Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, considered the equivalent of a Bishop in Tibetan Buddhism, will stay at the Gomde Lindholme Hall near Inverness.
Rinpoche will be greeted by bagpipes, incense, tea and biscuits in a Tibetan tent. He will teach for four days and cover the entire Buddhist path with topics such as how to live life, face death, and how to meditate. One Buddhist student, Ms Kate Riddick said “it is a very special event to get so close to someone who is considered to be the equivalent of a Bishop in the Tibetan Buddhist Spiritual Circle”.
Lama Rinpoche, 59, left his native Tibet in central Asia in 1959 and rose through the ranks of Buddhism becoming a Dharma master to 500 monks. In 1976 he was instructed to teach Buddhism to Westerners and has since toured the world. Buddhism is a religion practised by over 350 million people across the world. The majority of its followers are in South-East Asia but Tibet has its own form of the spiritual tradition centred on its leader the Dalai Lama. After China invaded Tibet in 1959 the Dalai Lama and many other monks, including the young Chökyi Nyima, escaped into exile away from brutal suppression. The monks have since represented Tibetan Buddhism throughout the world and worked for peace in their homeland.
This months teachings will take place in a large Tibetan tent to over forty students but it is expected to be a small and informal programme. On the day of the full moon, the 23rd of September, Lama Rinpoche will bless the Gomde land in a special ceremony. The land will then develop the meditation of the Buddhists and their qualities in peace and harmony. Rinpoche will also take time to visit the beautiful beaches, castles and moors of North-East Scotland.
The Gomde Lindholme Hall attracts Buddhist dignitaries across the world with H.H. Phakchok Rinpoche visiting in November. It is still possible to join in with the event and for more information get in touch with the Gomde Hermitage. The visit has no fixed fee but donations are welcome.