A by-election will be held on Thursday 20 January 2022 for the election of ONE councillor in Ward 2 of East Lothian Council, the Preston/Seton/Gosford Ward
I have to declare an interest in this by election. I spent the first three years of my life living in Prestonpans. As you would expect I recall very little of this time but I have occasionally returned for a brief visit when I have been in the vicinity. That however is not the limit of my interest. The Independent candidate in the contest is a former SNP colleague and a good friend of Jim Sillars. I am sure he would be a great councillor. There is more however because he has the backing and support of Professor Alf Baird who sees a new port on the land of the old Cockenzie Power Station as the way forward for future sealinks between Scotland and Europe. The Council own the land and Calum is running a strong campaign on the issue. What follows is one of Calum’s newsletters and then a reasoned consideration of what any new port could bring to the area and Scotland. This is a by election that could have huge future implications for the whole of Scotland. If you know anyone who lives there phone them and urge them to vote.
When opportunity knocks, open the bl**dy door!
For the last 14 years, Councillors in all parties, have bent the knee to Holyrood.
With the feeling of a condemned man facing the Council gallows, I approach the last week of this blasted by-election. No pardon is forthcoming and a long drop awaits my arrival. My campaign was supposed to end quickly and kindly with a last-minute reprieve. Now my neck may be stretched beyond return, for a win looms on the horizon….
I started simply challenging the local Labour Party to represent the interests of working people. In theory, that should have been an easy ask! Back a new Cruise/Ferry port at Cockenzie Power Station (or bring another serious employment prospect forward) and I offered to pull out of the contest.
Astonishingly, Labour has responded to my request with stony silence. Their election plan remains: keep the middle class onside in Port Seton & Longniddry and take the working class vote in Prestonpans for granted. The last time our town witnessed such dereliction of duty, the Dragoons were fleeing the Battle of Prestonpans.
When the Labour Party slams the door on local employment prospects it strikes working class people hard in the face. They may be too shocked immediately to rebel but when the stars circling overhead depart, so to do the votes. That’s why voters relegated its local MP/MSP and the party is now playing in the political B league.
If Labour won’t stand up for working class interests then their grip on Council control in May deserves to fall.
The late Councillor Willie Innes had the foresight and the leadership to push East Lothian Council to purchase the power station land. Unfortunately, his lengthy illness prevented him following through on his ambition for a new Port.
When I last spoke with Willie we were both scrambling through the undergrowth of Cockenzie House, trying to escape the torrential rain through the pitch dark garden. Willie was wearing his customary suit and tie, as he always did on official duties.
Through his waterlogged clothes he still found time to discuss the Port of Prestonpans proposal. His eyes sparkled in the glow of my torch at the prospect of bringing secure local employment to the area. Willie spoke with no shiver, he well knew the comfort a secure job could bring.
Willie backed the Port and did what he could to push the project forward against an indifferent Labour Party and a Council hostile to any change. The engineering port study, that explodes the can’t do myths that emerged, was personally championed by him. If only Willie’s colleagues would show the courage of his convictions, local workers would be in better place today.
I welcome the visit to Prestonpans yesterday by the Scottish Labour Party leader. For he was parachuted in to shore up a flagging election effort: a clear sign Labour is rattled. I rate Anas Sarwar MSP highly. He manages to combine a human touch with a clever mind and sense of purpose…a rare quality in Holyrood.
Unfortunately, there was no selfie with Mr Sarwar at our new port nor any other local employment opportunity. Instead, he praised worthy initiatives to combat the effects of largely self-inflicted deprivation.
Get economic growth high enough and poverty lowers naturally by lifting all boats. Neglect employment and investment – in towns like Prestonpans – and poverty thrives.
Working people need opportunities to succeed. Labour’s local poverty plans, foodbanks and the fabled “multi-agency working groups” are only needed when politicians fail to deliver on those opportunities.
Where were the local educational improvements, new transport connections and successful enterprise initiatives for Mr Sarwar to praise? East Lothian Council, with its annual budget of £250 million, spectacularly managed to deliver nothing new in Preston, Seton & Gosford for him to show off.
So why am I despondent at the prospect of winning this by-election? I’ve been looking at the changes required to turn East Lothian around, they are both substantial and time consuming. It’s going to require a shed load of work and grief.
For the last 14 years, Councillors in all parties, have bent the knee to Holyrood. They’ve suffered the budget cuts and sucked up the loss of community power. They’ve viewed Holyrood, not as a threat to local government, but as a career move. Civic Scotland, that stood up to the ravages of Thatcherism, has just rolled over to the power-hungry Scottish Government. The recent rebellion by COSLA is way too little too late.
I remain however up for the task and I won’t take a wage for it. My interest lies in getting folk the services they deserve and pay for. All too often we end up with highly bureaucratic functions serving their own interests. Every local service (Health, Housing, Education, Economy, Social Care & Transport) needs a complete overhaul to survive Nichola Sturgeon’s savage budget cuts.
Continuing with managed decline is not an option. A modern mindset is needed to embrace; change, enterprise, automation and innovation. This is not just within the Council but across the County and throughout Scotland. This is a tough ask but I’ve worked on successful modernisation programmes in the most conservative of companies.
To start you need people at the top who believe in the need for change, with the drive to make improvements happen: Councillors who recognise the knock of opportunity and are keen to open doors for all.
HERE IS THE OPPORTUNITY INDEPENDENTLY ASSESSED
Cockenzie Opportunity Squandered but Not Lost
Cruise Ship industry veteran Brian Cunningham writes from Saint John on the potential for a new port at Cockenzie Power Station
Having worked with schools, colleges, and government officials since as early as 2011, I am keenly aware of the desire in Scotland to bolster economic development and the strengthen the workforce readiness of Scotland’s youth for a new economy A new economy built on the strengths of Scotland.
While there have been many proactive efforts to address workforce readiness issues as well as different regional economic development efforts, the ability to connect both initiatives have been a struggle. In other areas the promise of an economic renaissance has been squandered by bureaucrats, special interests, and those making the promises. One community wherein you can see the immediate impacts of squandered opportunity is the East Lothian town of Prestonpans.
The major employer in town, the Cockenzie Power Station was closed in 2013 with a fair amount distress to the local economy. The distress was met with grandiose plans and promises about a better economic future for the residents in the area. Almost nine years since the site was closed, while the site is clean, the economic progress promised is nowhere in sight.
Countless studies by everyone from the local councils to university academics have pointed toward different uses for the property. Perhaps the most promising potential site use according to a number of studies is to create a multi-use port facility offering cruise terminal facilities, ferry transportation to European Union countries, and commercial shipping.
Virtually every angle of the aforementioned project has, to some degree, been studied. As documented in many of the individual studies, other port towns have seen a tremendous boon to their economies and workforce development efforts after completing similar investments. Investments targeted at providing economic opportunity while protecting seabeds and the surrounding environment.
With Edinburgh serving as a backdrop to a potential multi-use port, the economic benefits to the entire region are extremely positive for what is a relatively small investment. Follow the projections in various studies and divide by two. The potential for the project is overwhelming. This site is likely the single most important multi-use port site in the world.
If planned correctly, with the with support of industry and a complete integration with the schools, colleges, and Scotland’s Workforce Development engine, a project like this has the potential to propel a new economic future and for Scotland and position the area as an innovative industry leader.
Why do we consider this opportunity squandered? Promises made, promises broken. This fabulous site currently sits as a greenfield of broken promises. People are starting to travel again, the global logistics system is breaking at the seams, and the cruise ships are starting to move again.
Perfectly positioned as the premier stop on a cruise of the isles, existing Edinburgh ports remains incapable of handling larger ships unless they agree to mooring in rough seas and ferry passengers inland for their visit. This strategy leaves itinerary planners and captains at odds and ultimately, leads to fewer and fewer itineraries.
Some would say the pandemic has slowed things down and it’s a good thing Scotland didn’t move forward with a multi-port facility in the subject area. Unfortunately, itineraries are planned years in advance and Scotland is falling further behind.
Precious time that could have been spent building a strategy, negotiating with cruise lines, passenger ferries, and shipping companies has been lost. Time that could have been spent partnering for the financing and construction of the aforementioned project has been lost. Time that could have been spent getting ready to open by the arrival with of the next season with a full complement of port traffic has been squandered away. Time spent building a hospitality training program in the schools and surrounding communities capable of differentiating the port with its competitors has been lost. Most importantly, the local companies that could have been created and the jobs needed to service the industry have not been created, the opportunity has been squandered.
Is the opportunity completely lost? No, the opportunity is not completely lost provided strong leadership focused on economic development, workforce development, and engagement with the schools through an intentional and comprehensive plan get to work quickly.
Strong leadership with the vision and determination to put sound economic development strategies and the needs of the community ahead of their wallet and the protection of all the special interests. Strong leaders who put the interest of the community ahead of the traditional players who have more to gain by keeping things the way they are than by adapting to change and competing in a transparent environment with fresh ideas.
The opportunity still exists but the window will close quickly and the economic benefits derived from a project such as this will simply go to a different community, likely in a different country where their leaders have the willingness and drive to make it happen.
WHO IS THIS GUY. WHAT DOES HE KNOW?
Brian Cunningham is a seasoned executive with an accomplished career built on strategy development, innovation, execution, and leadership. As a passionate leader and strategist, Mr. Cunningham is known globally for solving complex problems and building highly performing teams to execute transformative strategy in the technology, government, education and workforce development, consulting and professional services and hospitality (particularly cruise) industries.
Mr. Cunningham has served as a Global Vice President for NCR Corporation, Managing Director at KPMG Consulting/BearingPoint, Managing Partner at Unisys Corporation, Director at Citrix Systems, President at J Strategies and the CEO of Love City Brands (RumJava and JavaMon Coffee).
Over the course of his career, Mr. Cunningham has helped reshape economies, restructured government operations, implemented complex technology solutions, envisioned and introduced innovative education systems, created and developed consumer goods companies, helped create public policy, and served as a trusted advisor to the cruise industry. With an entrepreneurial spirit, Mr Cunningham has created and lead commercial businesses up to the $.5B range and has served on many education and technology standards focused boards.
BEAT THE CENSORS
Sadly some sites had given up on being pro Indy sites and have decided to become merely pro SNP sites where any criticism of the Party Leader or opposition to the latest policy extremes, results in censorship being applied. This, in the rather over optimistic belief that this will suppress public discussion on such topics. My regular readers have expertly worked out that by regularly sharing articles on this site defeats that censorship and makes it all rather pointless. I really do appreciate such support and free speech in Scotland is remaining unaffected by their juvenile censorship. Indeed it is has become a symptom of weakness and guilt. Quite encouraging really.
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