Saturday, 29 June 2013

Lost in France - Contalmaison

Hopefully, I won't be, but many were in the First World War 1914-18. I've been honoured by being asked to represent the Council and the Lord Provost at the annual commemoration service at the memorial in the picture which is at Contalmaison, a small hamlet in northern France and was erected by the McCrae's Battalion Trust to honour the many young men who fell around this area at the start of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916. The entire Hearts first team squad enlisted en masse into Sir George McCrae's battalion and some of them never returned. Several others were so badly injured that their football careers were prematurely ended as well their health being affected for the rest of their lives. The Contalmaison Cairn's elder sister, the Haymarket Memorial Clock will shortly be reinstalled to its rightful position and both are fitting tributes to the courage of young men who sacrificed all in one of the bloodiest conflicts in history. I'm travelling alone by train there and back but am looking forward to meeting up with the guys from the Trust on Sunday and paying my respects on Monday 1st July. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre

Was delighted to have a sneak preview and brief tour of the new Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre this morning (at 8am!). It was in fact a photo opportunity ahead of the formal hand over in a couple of weeks and the official opening later this summer. Its an impressive building with some great spaces taking advantage of the natural light that seems to fill every nook and cranny. Was also delighted to be able to invite representatives from the WH Community Council who have supported the project throughout. Services based here will of course serve the south west of the city but achieving this new centre in the heart of the community has been a huge issue for Wester Hailes and represents another major step forward in the regeneration of the area. The ground floor is given over to service delivery to patients and clients and upstairs is an open plan space where professionals from many disciplines across Council and NHS services will be co-located and can work together to better effect. Still some hard work ahead as about 330 staff are scheduled to move in but it does look like a great place to work or receive vital services.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Committee Business and Seeing Auntie, again

A very busy Health Wellbeing and Housing Committee yesterday morning heard a deputation from the Prestonfield Neighbourhood Cebtre (pictured) They were asking that when the Council is carrying out modernisation works on the Kitchen and Bathroom programme we should also consult with tenants with a view to installing wet floor showers if so desired by the tenant. Prestonfield has quite an elderly population and the thinking is that when people require these adaptations to stay in their own homes its often a lengthy and expensive process and sometimes people have to reluctantly consider moving house if the adaptation can't be delivered. There was a lot of merit in their argument, though also some short term budget implications. However, in the finest traditions of cross party compromise we managed to agree to their request and called for a report into the wider Adaptations service. The complete committee papers can found on this link and part 2 of the papers on this link.

Committee was followed by our Policy Review session during which we saw the performance of Seeing Auntie again by Naomi Breeze. It had an equally powerful impact second time round and this time we followed the play with a discussion about how Edinburgh can move towards becoming a Dementia Friendly City. Some good ideas generated and further work is being carried out.

Hot footed it to the Corn Exchange for our third managers event to discuss Health and Social Care Integration. Really useful session with some positive feedback from Council and NHS managers. The draft bill has now been published in the Scottish Parliament so there should be some interesting debate in the months ahead.

Then, just made it to Clovenstone Community Centre for the management committee meeting, only to find it had been cancelled, but at least there was time to draw breath before the WEGARAH meeting at Prospect HA. Excellent turn out and a good discussion about recent racially motivated incidents and the welcome news that following the horrific events in Woolwich a few weeks ago there had been no negative backlash in Edinburgh with all communities and faiths united in condemning the murder of Lee Rigby and maintaining a united, civilised front.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Wester Hailes Fun Run

3 Fun Run spectators in WH this morning
The resurrected Wester Hailes 5k Fun Run took place this morning. Organised and supported by Prospect Housing Association, Scorescotland, WHALE, WH Health Agency and the Community Council it was building on last year's event which unfortunately was badly affected by heavy rain. No such problems today though with a mild, dry morning. The 140 or so athletes set off from Hailes Quarry Park and made their way through Wester Hailes via the Greenway and up and round Clovenstone before sprinting for the finish back at the park. One or two serious runners but the real success of this event was the community, young and old, coming out and participating or supporting. Some may not be sporty or competitive but there was good family and community spirit, enjoyed by all. Did I run ? I hear you ask.... Well, I decided my talents would be best used as a steward so I was dispatched to help at the Clovesntone water station, handing out drinks to tired and thirsty runners. It was hard work, honest....

Currie Beer Festival

My commitment to local community activities was on show again on Friday night as I spent a very enjoyable evening supporting the Currie Beer and Curry Festival. Well organised and run by the good people of the Currie and Balerno Round Table, this was the second annual festival, held over two nights, but it was so well organised it felt like it has been a regular fixture for years. Credit must go to the numerous volunteers who had obviously spent a great deal of time and effort and in particular to those responsible for identifying the more than 30 beers and ciders to choose from. All the ales were Scottish and mostly from the central belt. More money raised too for local charities, something the Round Table are particularly good at, what's not to like ? Looking forward to next year already...

Saturday, 15 June 2013


Two inspirational experiences last week. Firstly, I paid a visit to the new premises of LEAP (Lothians & Edinburgh Abstinence Project) who work with people with drug and alcohol addictions who have reached a stage where they are prepared to tackle their addiction, with support, through abstinence and on a road to recovery. Its an intensive, structured, 12 week residential (for most) programme which, if completed is followed by further support to help people move back to their home environments and continue with the good work. It's a pretty successful programme too although it is dependent on individuals being prepared to confront their circumstances and do something about it. Probably takes a great deal of personal courage. The new premises at Astley Ainslie are very impressive and ideal for this sort of work. I also met a couple of lads who are progressing through the programme and they were really positive about their LEAP experience and optimistic about their own futures for the first time in years. One even admitted that he fully expected to be dead if he hadn't found LEAP.

Then I toddled back to the City Chambers to co host a Thank You event for Health and Social Care volunteers. Very informal with a glass of wine and light buffet but rather than the usual small talk one sometimes gets at these events I was genuinely impressed and fascinated by the volunteers I talked to. One works with the museums and galleries service to take people with disabilities on guided tours. Another gives up her time to support a group of recovering drug addicts. One guy befriends a 40 year old man with learning disabilities and has done for 15 years. He told me he wanted to make a contribution but had in fact taken more from his experience that he thought he had put in. All of these instances don't replace existing service provision but are an added extra, a very important extra that makes a great difference to a lot of people's lives. An inspiring day.