Why Governance Matters?
The residents group has battled for years within the usual Council channels to have this issue brought out into the full light of public knowledge.
Elsewhere on the website we have tried to outline how we feel the present desire to push on at all costs has arisen despite the complete wreck and ruin of the original project.
One of the problems in trying to make sense of the history, is the bewildering number of times the rationale given for the project has changed but in effect we have reached the end of the line where the final reason now seems to be simply 'we have spent so much we must go on'.
This would be still be a desperate situation to be in, but perhaps acceptable, if there were no bad effects .
However there are and, at the very least strong possibilities that, simply pressing on will be the direct cause of bad effects on the health of many ordinary people living in the city.
Governance matters because with a political vacuum at the heart of the council and the enfeebled elected chamber seemingly exhausted there is no mechanism by which the wider concerns can be met without posing fatal threats to the project being driven forward largely by unelected officers..
This perception of possible fatal damage to an already troubled project is, we believe, what keeps the Copuncil's senior departmental executives determined to plough on.
This is a shame as there are simple things that could be done to change the project and it's effects for the better.
BUT WHERE GOVERNANCE HAS COMPLETELY COLLAPSED is that it should not be up to Council executives to assume total responsibility for delivering the plan, and become so closely identified with it as a result.
They are the people producing and signing off the advice documents and beriefing reports to councillors, they are supposed to fulfill the role of disinterested Public servants giving impartial advice fairly and without bias. But in this affair they have in effect have become responsible for producing the reports, creating the assumptions, AND even producing legal advice that limits or even removes the councillor's ability to debate openly.
This has come about so gradually as to be almost unnoticed.
For the residents it is the history of apparent engagement by the administration that subsequently seems little more than self serving delaying tactics that has created sceptisism about the good faith of negotiations.
These fatal flaws in Governance track back to the original decision, taken for whatever reason, to avoid the tried and tested formula of a Public Inquiry at which all of the things the residents are now having to battle so hard to bring to light, would have been examined.
It may have been that with a Public Inquiry held the project would never have got off the ground.
If that is the fear it should not be used as an excuse to avoid a Judicial Inquiry now, as soon as possible, in order to have a chance of changing the project ..
This question of the democratic deficit, and of unelected elites pursuing policies without true accountability is a wider issue across the whole UK and not just in Edinburgh as recent election results have shown. But in Edinburgh the deficit has been especially acute as it has meant the lawyers for the company supposedly working for the City, telling the Councillors, supposedly responsible for their oversight, that they cannot debate vital issues because of the danger of conflicting with 'commercial confidentiality'.
That company, tie Ltd is no more but the attitude of mind and lack of real accountability engendered continues.
At it's worst this resulted in Councillor having to adjourn a debate without any discussion for 2 months in 2010 in order to receive legal training, because they felt they couldn't even begin to understand properly the legal advice they were being given at that time. THis at a vital time for the project when every day was important.
The Councillors received criticism for their attempts to control the project--- but in the main they are ordinary people, and so what are they expected to do when expensive lawyers threaten them with potential personal liability for losses; tens of millions of pounds worth of losses, if they continue a debate
Commercial confidentiality does not trump a criminal investigation and it should not trump proper democratic governance of publically funded projects,
We had no idea that the attempt to question a temporary traffic regulation that suddenly proved to be 'permanent' would lead our group down this road.
But the problems of getting the issues fairly debated cannot be understood unless these wider issues are understood.
The Council have attempted to onion slice the processes and decsions involved in pushing forward and these have to be seen as a whole, in order to understand what is happening.
We believe it is the 'Finish at all costs' mindset that must change before all the decisions can be opened up to public scrutiny, but that a Judicial Inquiry needs to held as soon as possible while things can still be done to change what could turn the already obvious financial disaster, into a full blown catastrophe for our city.