‘Tragedy’ of Edinburgh’s traffic legacy

In a week in which Tony Blair called on international leaders to think of the future and tackle excessive car use, is Edinburgh still shackled to the past? Words: Conchita Pinto

SUSTAINABLE TRAFFIC POLICIES in Edinburgh are being hampered by backward-looking developers who are 'holding a gun to the council's head,’ according to David Begg, convenor of Edinburgh’s Transportation Committee.

Councillor Begg was responding to concerns expressed over car-parking space at the newly constructed Scottish Widows building in the £40m financial centre development in the city’s West End.

Scottish Widows is just one of a number of prestigious insurance and banking companies in the area. Between them they provide over 1000 staff parking spaces. The neighbouring Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) has 600.

The impact of nearly 2000 extra cars on the already congested roads around the development is a major issue of concern to Begg but one which highlights the conflicting demands of transport and planning.

The modern office complex, which has risen phoenix-like from Edinburgh’s gap sites, is considered one of the city’s success stories. However, Friends of the Earth spokesman Richard Dixon sees it as a missed opportunity to adopt a fonNard-thinking approach to transport: 'The failure of the Planning Department to work with Councillor Begg in promoting Edinburgh as an environmentally aware modern European city is a tragedy,‘ he said.

The reason for the seeming lack of collaboration between Edinburgh’s Traffic and Planning Departments lies in the policies of the l980s.

Ian Spence, conservation and planning manager of Edinburgh City Council’s City Development Department, said: ’Plans for the financial centre were initiated in the 805, before the days of European environmental legislation.’ He added that the Council was up against the free market policres of a Conservative Government, whose move to deregulate buses directly contradicted integrated traffic strategies.

The financial centre’s success is critical for

repayment of part of the £25 million loan taken out by the Council to get the building of the EICC under way.

Finding tenants for the speculative development was the Council’s main priority. It admits its hand was forced by major companies who threatened to go to Glasgow if their terms were not met.

Councillor Begg commented: ’The perception that jobs depend on cars creates tensions between businesses and new Government thinking on car reduction policy.’

Begg pioneered the controversial ’Moving Forward’ traffic reduction programme, which aims to persuade motorists to leave their cars at home.

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However, it was revealed last week that a potential conflict of interest may force him to resign as Edinburgh's transportation convenor. He is to become chairman of the bus company Lothian Regional Transport, which receives millions of pounds worth of Council contracts.

Nevertheless, he believes the changes he is pushing for are inevitable. 'European legislation on reducing carbon dioxide car emissions are soon going to bite, forcing developers to meet targets,’ he explained. 'However, the aim is to change the hearts and minds of car users and businesses. Creating cities that are pleasant to live in is to everybody’s benefit in the long run.’

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nstrators picket the petrol giant over global warming

Shell targeted over ‘spurious’ research

CAMPAIGNERS IN FANCY DRESS demonstrated against the Oil company Shell in Edinburgh recently to highlight their concerns over the lobby group Global Climate Coalition (GCC).

Dressed as ’Fossil Fuel Fiends’, the campaigners’ message was ’Wake up to climate change’. Friends of the Earth, who were behind the protest, claim GCC funds screntists whose work throws doubt on theories such as global warming

and suggests climate change is not a serious problem.

Kevin Dunion, Director of FoE Scotland and chair of FoE’s international organisation, said world negotiations over climate change were at a critical stage. ’Through the Global Climate Coalition, Shell and others continue to try to sabotage those efforts using doubtful science and spurious arguments,’ he said. (Stephen Naysmith)

And finally. . . McDonalds fried while Scots bacon outsizzles the English

WITH LABOUR SUSPENDING MPs left, right and centre at the merest whiff of scandal, parallels with Conservative treatment of wrongdoers are sure to be made. Jonathan Aitken's future lies in tatters after years of lies and deceit, during which all suspicions and allegations were ignored by his masters. And now William Hague offers employment to a self- confessed adulterer. Keep it up, Willie. Keep it down, Cecil.

JUST WHAT ARE they feeding the natives down Scottish Courage way? After sponsoring the Jimmy Hill Internet site and introducing us to the talking beer can, the boffins are now working on Robopint a device which pours pints with the perfect head. Bar staff around the country promised no half-measures in opposing such a blatant plot to send them to the scrap-heap.

Questions remain about who would collect the money, but more importantly, how do you ogle drunkenly at such technological advancement? And would ’My laptop doesn't understand me,’ work just as badly as its present equivalent?

Scots boars: hot to trot

THOSE ENGLISH SWINE are upsetting us again. English pigs, that is, which have apparently called time on breeding due to the warm weather, leaving their Scottish brethren with the responsibility of keeping it up. ‘Sunburn is the main problem,’ explained pig production expert John 6055. There, a piggy sex tale without one mention of pork. Doh.

SO MCDONALDS HAS been vindicated in their battle for justice over claims that they exploit kids through advertising, exploit workers through low wages and exploit animals by, well, slaughtering them to bits. Not that the judge disagreed with any of these allegations. The burger multi-national now has had to weigh legal costs of £10m against damages of £60,000 which will probably never be credited to their account. You‘ve got to chuckle at The Big Mac's UK president Paul Preston, who choked out the

words: 'we are broadly satisfied with the judgement’.

SPORTS MINISTER TONY 'Legalize It' Banks has persisted in putting Scots fans in a tiny with his latest pronouncements on a 'UK Utd’ football team. His Scottish counterpart, Sam Galbraith, thought for a nanosecond before retorting 'over my dead body,’ while the SNP’s Roseanna Cunn- ingham said a lot of words which came to the same thing. Like Tony, this plan looks set to go to pot.

TUFTY THE SQUIRREL is at the centre of a fair old row in Stirlingshire. The furry road safety campaigner’s local appreciation society is being closed down due to him being too patronising for 905 kids. Or is it because the region's cops and road safety officers are going nuts at being called Tufty by the local brats? This must be what you call a brush with the law. (Brian Donaldson)

13—26 Jun 1997 TIIELISI’S