Thursday, 27 June 2013

1997: Nelson Mandela in Edinburgh

"I have always had a great deal of admiration for Mrs Thatcher."

The generosity of spirit of Nelson Mandela was on display in an encounter which took place in Edinburgh on 27th October 1997.

He had been awarded the freedom of the City of Edinburgh but was on a very tight schedule that day. Only a brief visit to Edinburgh was possible. I understand the ceremony took place in the Caley Hotel on Princes Street after breakfast.

Daphne Sleigh was the leader of the opposition Conservatives on the Council and in that capacity was a member of the welcoming councillors and dignitaries from the city.

A formidable woman in her own right, she was somewhat apprehensive as the great man was introduced to, and shook hands with, the Conservative leader in Edinburgh. "Conservative", she recalls he said. She admits trembling as she wondered where, if anywhere, the conversation would now go.

"Tell me how is Mrs Thatcher?" he asked. Daphne replied that she was very well. With warmth he then told the leader of the Conservatives in Edinburgh, "I have always had a great deal of admiration for Mrs Thatcher. I was touched by her concern for me." He told the leader of the Conservative group how kind Mrs Thatcher had been to him when he met her. In the ensuing few moments of conversation Nelson told Daphne how Mrs Thatcher had urged him to conserve his energy 'because your country needs you.'

It was a remarkable vignette (not picked up by the media of the time) of the gracious spirit of the great man's ability to rise above differences. It is a reminder to us all that in his life, a generosity of spirit vanquished hatred. It was a remarkable example to set to his nation and worthy of remembering.

Daphne Sleigh

Note. In 1990 Mandela made two visits to London. He was reportedly furious that in the first visit he was blocked by the ANC from meeting Mrs Thatcher, who was still Prime Minister. But he telephoned her and he describes in his autobiography her kindness in urging him to reduce his punishing schedule for the sake of his health. He did have a three hour meeting with her later in the year. He notes that he did not make any headway with her on sanctions but that she "chided me for not taking her advice and cutting down on my schedule".
A Long Walk to Freedom, 1994, chapter 104.
Interview with Daphne Sleigh

Council leader rejects Audit Commission

Cllr Cameron Rose
This morning I challenged Andrew Burns, the Labour Council leader, over the recent Best Value Audit of Edinburgh Council.

Pointing out the 'very challenging' financial position of the council, the Audit Commission made the following point:
'The position became more pressing when the Council decided not to externalise certain services'
It was referring to a programme of outsourcing which promised the taxpayer savings of £294m over a seven to 10 year period along with contractually guaranteed improvements in service.

I asked Cllr Burns if he agreed with the Audit Commission.  His reply was that he did not. 

Now I can understand if he were to have argued that the the decision to reject those savings was a legitimate political decision - even though I sharply disagree with his politics.  That, however was not his argument. 

It was that the Audit Commission was wrong and that the loss of savings through this programme did not make the financial position of the Council more pressing.

Extraordinary - because the Council's alternative savings programme is undeniably much smaller!  And an untenable position when you consider the Council is now really struggling to make those savings.  On the service front we also have the ongoing complaints over waste collection which was one of the key services where improvements were promised.

The long term outcome of Labour's political decision is fewer, poorer services for us all.

Cllr Cameron Rose,
Conservative Group leader

Friday, 21 June 2013

Liberton/Gilmerton By-election 2013

The by-election count for the Liberton/Gilmerton Ward took place today at the City Chambers. The election was held following the sad death of SNP Councillor Tom Buchanan.

Commenting on the by-election result, Scottish Conservative candidate, Stephanie Murray said:

"I congratulate Keith Robson on his victory today and wish him well. I am satisfied with the Conservatives result and believe this demonstrates that there is a good Conservative presence in the Ward. I thank Conservatives across the Ward for turning out to support me. Once again we finished clearly ahead of the Liberal Democrats."

Conservative Councillor for Liberton/Gilmerton, Nick Cook said:

"I congratulate Labour's Keith Robson on his victory. However, with three out of four Ward Councillors now all representing the same Party, I am more committed than ever to providing a robust, common sense alternative voice for voters right across Liberton/Gilmerton."