Vision for Leith Walk

Leith Walk is the longest street in Edinburgh and the one with the most character. It’s one of the most multicultural areas in Edinburgh. There are about eight supermarkets on Leith Walk and a few chain shops and franchises, and the usual array of charity shops and some ugly new pawnshops and moneylenders, but there’s also a host of local businesses, including some which are the best in Edinburgh for what they sell: Scottish scones and cake, Mexican food, Polish bread, Sicilian pastries, Bangladesh curries, Chinese markets, Italian coffee, Tattie Shaws for fruit and veg, furniture, clothes, electronics, books, art, music, excellent pubs, several cybercafes all of which provide good quality Internet, ranging from the very basic to the positively luxurious – Leith Walk is great.

And Edinburgh Council has treated it like crap.

The roads are in a state not even justified by the trams. The pavements are broken and unmended. There’s state-sponsored graffiti warning us that we’re in danger of being stabbed. It’s even difficult to cross the road.

There should be trees, yes. And benches in pleasant places for sitting. And a speed limit and pedestrian crossings. And every small local business should be able to get a grant for a makeover. (Yes, all right, the council can decide if they’re painting their frontage the wrong shade of green.) Mend the pavements. Get rid of those huge refuse bins. Have plenty of small bins promptly cleared. Introduce rent controls so predatory landlords can’t price small businesses off the improved Leith Walk.

And I’d like to know where Rasta Man is living now: my vision of Leith Walk includes him. I do not care about the imperial wine warehouse that decided to shut him out: I haven’t shopped there and I never will. He was part of the Leith Walk community until a chain business from elsewhere locked him out.

Let’s get the bronze pigeons back! Fund local artists to paint murals and make art for the street – celebrations of Leith’s history and culture. There is no statue anywhere in Edinburgh of Mary Queen of Scots or Mary of Guise, yet Leith suffered worst in Henry VIII’s war of rough wooing, as the King’s Wark on the Shore commemorates. One of the only two statues of women in Edinburgh is at the foot of the Walk, Queen Victoria. Let’s have a statue of Mary of Guise with her young daughter.

And – why not? Since the road was thoroughly and painstakingly cleared for tramlines for a forgotten plan to whisk rich visitors from Edinburgh Airport to the luxury accommodations at Leith Waterfront (that plan hardly included a stop on Leith Walk at all), why not a small local tram that runs up and down the middle of Leith Walk, the longest and one of the widest streets in Edinburgh? That would be more practical than raising a giant Ferris wheel in Princes Street gardens – and more useful than building a massive tram line to replace the 22 and 35 buses to South Gyle and Edinburgh Airport.

Leith Walk is one of the most characterful, the richest in variety and busy with local businesses and people who live and work there. I want Edinburgh Council to treasure what the city has. I don’t believe they do.

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Filed under Elections, Scottish Politics, Supermarkets, Sustainable Politics

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