This is the first instalment of an article submitted to the Digital Sentinel by a local resident of Oxgangs, Spring Heeled Jack. The Digital Sentinel welcomes a range of opinions as long as the ethical principles of the site are maintained. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
Oxgangs is a relatively small housing estate situated in the south west of Edinburgh, nestling under the Pentland Hills which is some four and a half miles from the city centre.
The estate forms part of the Pentlands constituency for general and Holyrood Scottish election purposes and it is also part of the Firhill constituency for local council elections.
In geographic terms, the terrain is high above sea level, full of steep hills and inclines, making it difficult to walk around, particularly for elderly and disabled people with mobility problems.
Edinburgh is known as the windy city, but people living in the Oxgangs area are fully aware that the weather can be much windier and often brutally cold in the winter because it is located on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
The area is quite well served with public transport, and there are two large supermarkets such as Tesco at Colinton Mains and Morrisons at Hunters Tryst in the immediate area.
In addition, there are smaller local shops at Oxgangs Broadway and Colinton Mains. However, there are no banking facilities and local people must travel to Morningside or Buckstone to access those services. There are few amenities available for local people, except for a purpose built public library and Pentland Community Centre, both situated at the top of a very steep hill. Other facilities include Colinton Mains Community Centre and Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre, both requiring access by car or by walking fairly long distances to reach these buildings.
In political terms, the Labour party used to be very strong within the Oxgangs area. For instance, John Allan was the former councillor for the Firhill constituency for many years, followed by Andrew Scobbie (former librarian). The constituency was represented by firstly, David McLetchie MP (now deceased) for the Conservative party, who lost his seat to Linda Clark at the 1997 general election then Alistair Darling (both Labour MPs). Mr McLetchie later managed to gain a seat at the new Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. Ian Gray represented the Labour party thereafter at Holyrood and is now an MSP for East Lothian.
The current politicians in post are Joanna Cherry for the Scottish National Party (SNP), elected in May 2015 at the general election for the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency and unlike Alistair Darling she has arranged several surgeries each month at various venues to meet constituents. Gordon MacDonald represents the SNP, at Holyrood and constituents in the Pentlands area, also arranging surgeries at several places in his local area.
Local councillors include Elaine Aitken for Fairmilehead, Jason Rust for Firhill/Colinton (both Conservatives), and Richard Lewis for the SNP representing Colinton/Fairmilehead ward.
One might imagine with all these politicians that the local people in Oxgangs would be well served and represented by those elected people. However, this could not be further from the truth. Politicians really can’t be bothered about the lack of amenities in the area.
For example, there are very few leisure facilities such as a purpose built gym or swimming pool, so local people have to travel to Gracemount Leisure Centre, Warrender, the Royal Commonwealth pool or to Wester Hailes to access these facilities.
When Tesco opened their large supermarket at Colinton Mains, the store was allowed to be directly opposite a school, which was dangerous due to the increased volume of traffic. The Oxgangs primary school burnt down in 2001 and this location was designated then for a purpose built swimming pool to be built for local use. However, no swimming pool has ever been built or mentioned since, all politicians are silent on the matter. (Answers on a postcard to this one please!).
A new purpose built health centre has also been placed on the back burner for years, where funding was meant to be in place by NHS Lothian and the local medical practices who would sell their present locations whilst moving into the new facility. The plans for this were made available at Oxgangs Library in November 2013 where a local doctor was in attendance to answer questions from existing patients in the local medical practices. In addition, representatives from NHS Lothian were in attendance to clarify matters (maps and diagrams) for the new purpose built medical centre.
However, more than three years later there has been no change in the situation, where no work has started, not a brick laid and no news to update locals on the situation.
The new facility is meant to have Physiotherapy and Podiatry facilities on site to allow local people to book appointments there and not to travel miles to other facilities in either Tollcross, Sighthill, or Gracemount Medical centres to access these necessary services (18 bus hourly service).
In the meantime, Wester Hailes has a purpose built medical facility in use, but people in Firhill, Colinton Mains and Oxgangs do not. It can be seen therefore that local and national politicians are not really interested in pushing matters along for local people, who are receiving a second rate service from their elected representatives.
By Spring heeled Jack springing around Oxgangs