edinburgh trams + tesco linwood

This is a tale of two present-day powers in so-called Scotland – one political and one commercial.

Edinburgh’s other Disgrace – The Trams
Enter stage left Council leader Jenny Dawe and “The Right Honourable” George Grubb, “Lord Lieutenant” and “Lord Provost” of Edinburgh. They may not have much to do with the day-to-day management of the project but as leaders they are ultimately responsible. If you are not a resident of Edinburgh, of course you’ll never have heard of them. Let’s just say… they’re not exactly full of intelligent ideas and nous, right up there arguing coherently with Norman Foster. Just worthies doing their best, but with zero vision or engagement, by all the evidence.

One example of this lazy thinking is the still to be installed gantrys that will carry the power lines for the new trams. These are big, tall, ugly objects and there’s going to be lots of them – and guess what, they will thoroughly pollute the view to the royal mile from Princes street. Thoughtless stewardship and care, when alternatives to a glaringly obvious and crucial issue should have been sought and sorted right from the start – Bordeaux, for instance, has the power in the ground. If any city should reduce its street furniture quota, it’s Edinburgh. The technical difficulties of this power system are minor when you relate it to the unreal amount of money being spent overall – they’re not employing NASA to launch the Scott Monument on a five-year mission to Venus after all – it’s just some trams.

You’ll know who your city’s sockpuppets are too. For Edinburgh, this ill-conceived and wholly unnecessary Tram project has been an utter logistical disaster (um… familiar… how quickly they’ve all forgotten the parliament messups) and will result in the city remaining in yet more serious debt for decades. The contractors Bilfinger Berger are not to blame – they’re the only professionals here – and must be appalled at the mess this over-politicised and underperforming world heritage site has got them into.

Previous post on Leith Waterfront and the Tram terminus at Newhaven here Also an article and googlemap on the Gogar hinterland I did last year.

TescoTown Linwood*
In the west the rules are broken by Wendy Alexander; mouthy MSP to the beyond-rundown Paisley North constituency. I have to grudgingly say that she is one of the very few political individuals in Scotland (Margo Macdonald is the other) who seem to have a care… and so from trams to tesco.

Tesco Linwood, in Paisley North, is a proposed tescotown, close to Paisley (a once-proud victorian powerhouse south-west of Glasgow). Let’s set the parameters right from the start – there is a large Morrisons at Johnstone and a large Asda at Phoenix park both less than 5 mins away from Linwood – Tesco desperately want a piece of their competitors, not being content with their own supersized Tesco Extra at Port Glasgow, 15 minutes away, or their Paisley Love St fiasco 2 mins away, or their midsize at Kilbirnie 15 mins away (which has completely devastated the local retail community in that small town).

So, what’s a poor megaopoly to do…

Stage One: set up an untransparent Tesco front company – in this case, Balmore Properties – who act as mafia-style landlord to the dwindling retail businesses in the nasty mall you want to flatten and re-develop. Balmore act sluggardly and earn the ire of the business community as well as concerned locals.

Bingo – you have your fall guy.

Stage Two: Oh that’s terrible, we’ll utterly renew the crumbling graffiti-and-crime-infested-nastiness that is Linwood’s centre (Balmore – boo!) and make it all nice and cuddly again. Here’s a really naff website that has been designed to make us seem part of the solution… www.lovelinwood.com – yay, see those hillman imps, makes yer proud dun’t'it.

Stage Three: the public beg you to save them from, er, Balmore. You accept that challenge. Another crap store, a sprinkling of architecturally substandard “affordable flats” and a couple of football pitches should shut them up. Much more importantly – a black eye for asda and morrisons.


And now for the bill (stupidity and corruption always costs)

1 Removal of local business economy (re-instatement of some like hairdressers – as Tesco tenants, naturally – trebles all round)
2 Wage-slave economy – x number of part-time shelfstacker jobs at minimum wage – woo hoo.
3 Planning acceptance must-haves – schools, houses, all to LCD standards and with zero morals – this is not a benevolent, semi-intelligent Bournville Village exercise.
4 Another peg down the national self-respect indicator board.
5 Several pegs down the distinctive local flavour indicator board.
6 More proof that Scotland PLC is run by aesthetics-and-morals-free politicos with big mouths and small brains.
7 Oh and the profits? They fly south.

Is this what you want? Because that’s what you’ll get.

*Source: Marcus Leroux : retail correspondent : The Times : 31 August 2010

Photo below taken from a bus on west maitland street Edinburgh – Copymade printshop. I think John H might approve of the paraphrase, subject to changing the colour of the additions and the font… not quite right but we get the emotion