The Beast from the East


Posted by in May's Magazine

As the snow thawed and the shop shelves filled up again, there was a palpable sense of solidarity in Leith in the aftermath of the #BeastFromTheEast. Communities shovelled streets together and volunteers gathered to clear school playgrounds. People got messages for their neighbours and helped each other along the road. While we experienced some of the worst weather in years, inspiringly, the snow also brought us together. Folk who wouldn’t normally talk to each other chatted and supported each other in a whole range of different ways.

Just a day after the blizzards had stopped, nowhere was this community spirit more vibrant than at a packed L£ith Chooses launch at the Kirkgate, where hundreds of people gathered at the community centre to promote their outstanding initiatives and cast their deciding votes. If you didn’t make it along or haven’t heard about L£ith Chooses then I’d really recommend checking it out: www.leithchooses.net. Buzzing with ideas and rejoicing in collective relief from “cabin fever” during the snow days, there was a real sense of public spirit in the air. And like those who’d cleared paths and helped fellow Leithers through those snow days, the volunteers who made L£ith Chooses possible deserve huge praise. Indeed, whether it’s the commitment of such volunteers, the way neighbourhoods pull together to help each other or the strong sense of community in times of need, those weeks have reminded us of how important all of our contributions are to the common good.

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Upliftingly, recent events and developments have emphasised something that I firmly believe in and say often – a strong belief that while the social and monetary value of our contributions may differ, as fellow human beings, the worth of our contributions are ultimately the same. Because all of us can, and do, make a difference.

Many have rightly praised emergency service workers, Council workers, call centre workers, heroic bus drivers and good Samaritans for getting us through the #BeastFromTheEast – and I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you again to all of those who worked so hard for the benefit of others during such difficult conditions. However, it’s also important to think about those who maybe don’t always come to mind – like carers, delivery drivers or those who keep our water systems running.

Because as the ice melted, of course, one of the many consequences of the #BeastFromTheEast was a lot more water flowing beneath our feet. These high water levels require skill and insight to manage – which made me wonder, maybe we don’t think enough about the important job that those who treat our water systems do day in day out, in bad weather and all year round? Whether it’s after a storm and heavy snow fall, or through a dry summer period, those who manage our water supply do such a vital job and that should be recognised.

This is particularly pertinent for us here in Leith, where water treatment has been a big issue for some time. And while I want to take this opportunity to show my gratitude for the important work that engineers and others do to manage our water, as the local MSP, I am of course also concerned about the fact that Seafield has caused discomfort and nuisance to nearby residents for some time. In fact, doing what I can to help tackle the “Seafield stench” was a key commitment I made at election time.

Building on the impressive work of local campaigners and others over a number of years, I organised a meeting last year between Leith Links Community Council and the Environment Minister, which resulted in the Scottish Government undertaking a robust and thorough Strategic Review of Seafield. You can read the report here: http://www.scottishwater.co.uk/investment-and-communities/your-communities/seafield This is a significant piece of work and makes the case for both operational improvements and investment at Seafield, in the short, medium and long term. Not only has this report been produced by independent experts but it also includes wide-ranging input from Leithers and our community.

Working with community representatives, the Council, Scottish Water, the plant operators and the Scottish Government, I will now be pressing for implementation of recommendations in the Strategic Review. For too long Leithers have had to suffer discomfort due to odours from Seafield and in the capital city of modern 21st century Scotland this needs to stop.

Following on from this Strategic Review, I’ll be pushing for more action on Seafield. But if you’re affected in the meantime please do keep reporting any odour issues to the Council by calling 0131 469 5641 or emailing publichealth@edinburgh.gov.uk. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that, while we are very grateful to those who work to keep our water system running, and especially during severe weather like the #BeastFromTheEast, odour problems from Seafield must be addressed. The coming months and years are a real opportunity to press for more action on Seafield and I’m confident that the Strategic Review will result in meaningful progress. I’ll certainly be pushing for that. Persevere. Ben MacPherson MSP

Twitter: @BenMacpherson

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