By Sean Bradley
There is no better time for the citizens of Edinburgh to pitch in and contribute to a Manifesto for the City Creating Our Manifesto for the City ⋆ The Citizen Network.
Calls for no return to unequal and unjust normalcy following Covid-19 have come from many quarters, some of them quite unexpected, and there’s no doubt that many of the persistent problems of city life will be reassessed by those who govern us, whether that be Westminster, Holyrood or Edinburgh City Chambers. But let’s not fool ourselves, what’s promised by politicians now may never transpire. Real change will not happen without direct action by citizens; for Edinburgh, Citizen’s Manifesto is the first step.
The need for citizens to hold politicians to account is already evident from reports of ‘stakeholder’ discussions pertaining to post-pandemic Edinburgh. Consider first what Council leader Adam McVey had to say about the city’s Summer festivals, “By working together we can make sure that when our festivals return, they do so with even more of a focus on our people, place and environment.” So far so good but one is tempted to question the ‘even more’ – there has been scant attention to people place and environment in festival planning in recent years.[“Edinburgh festivals face calls for overhaul before they return in 2021”]
In the same Scotsman article note that the city’s residents are absent when our cherished heritage is flagged up as needing not just preservation but enhancement by the festivals. Clearly, this pipe-dream does not extend to those who live in this ‘remarkable backdrop’.
But it’s the reaction of Essential Edinburgh that confirms that not all stakeholders are thinking about anything other than business as usual post Covid-19. Roddy Smith, the Chief Executive, says “We need to reactivate the city, promote it strongly and widely and seek over the next couple of years to return to our numbers pre the virus.”
The same message can be deduced from the report from the meeting last week of the new tourism ‘oversight group’ for Edinburgh. The group includes Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), Edinburgh Airport, Festivals Edinburgh, Visit Scotland, Essential Edinburgh and the Chamber of Commerce – again not one resident has a seat at the table. Adam McVey reported that the group had reaffirmed the aims of Edinburgh’s new Tourism Strategy which was agreed pre-pandemic.
How can this be? Have we learned nothing these last few weeks?
So, the coronavirus will not miraculously change our world for the better. The citizens will have to insist on it, and the Manifesto for the City is an excellent starting place.
Let’s face it, change is difficult – most of us are stuck with at least one foot in the past and are in some way resigned to the way things are. To paraphrase a French philosopher, we are all ‘half accomplices’, demanding radical change while at the same time clinging to what we have become accustomed to. But the city will change whether we like it or not, and citizens need to rise to the challenge and drive that change – now is the time to articulate our values and our aspirations; now is the time to really get beyond ourselves.