City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

"Dear Mr Harper" on Edinburgh Trams

By actionman - Posted on 31 March 2011

Dear Mr Harper

Robin Harper launched his autobiography, "Dear Mr Harper" last night at Blackwells book shop in Edinburgh.  Robin Harper is a very pleasant, genial man who became the first member of the Green Party to be elected to a UK parliament when he became an MSP in 1999. His book, which he wrote in association with Fred Bridgeland, is a pleasing read with several amusing anecdotes which will keep the reader entertained through its two hundred pages.

It was interesting when he was asked at the launch what the Green Party would advise a new Scottish Government to do about the Edinburgh Trams project that he showed real despair - even banging his head against the wall to show his frustration!

He commented that it seems that some Scottish Local Authorities simply do not have the expertise to run such large and complex schemes. He said that of the three companies in the Trams consortium, two had acted impeccably, but the third had hired a string of lawyers as soon as the contract was signed - implying that legal wrangles lay ahead and that the German company wanted to cause trouble.

He was also asked what the position of the Green Party was about the complaints about pollution from those who had houses some five hundred metres away from the new Forth crossing, when compared with the greatly increased pollution being experienced by residents of the residential New Town in Edinburgh who have the pollution only five metres from their windows.

His answer was interesting; he said, "oh, the two are quite different, for the trams the traffic will revert to its normal routes once the tram works are finished."  

The questioner begged to differ and pointed out that the traffic diversions in the city have now been made permanent and that the effects of the traffic displacement by the tram project will be experienced right along the length of the tram route. 

Robin Harper said that in this case the City Council would have to find some other solution to reduce traffic and suggested that the Congestion Charge might be reintroduced; he said "last time the Council foolishly asked people to vote in a referendum and it was rejected, but this may be one solution." 

At that point it was felt it was time to start signing books! 

This sounds rather like that other MSP who did not appreciate that the trams needed overhead power cables all along Princes Street to power them.  

It does make one wonder just how many MSPs really understood what they were voting for when they decided to go ahead with the project.

Dear Mr. Harper: The Autobiography of Robin Harper

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1) Despite 139,000 houses being worse off with their air quality (which is over half in the City--- they still call it a Green Tram.

2) Despite the clear fact now revealed (and not originally mentioned in the publicity) that virtually the whole roadway has to be emptied of virtually all traffic (if not totally emptied) people do still think the tram will trundle along mixing with traffic as one sees in Europe.

These two facts are connected because it's the emptying of just those roads that carry all the traffic (or used to) from Haymarket , through the centre and down Leith Walk and along the coast that means all the roads that don't carry the traffic will have to do that job.

Particulates cause asthma, worsen existing asthma, and kill by strokes and cardiac diseases as well as just respiratory ones)---and that's how the 'Green Tram' worsens pollution, and noise and danger for over 275,000 people in Edinburgh----- 


I look forward to reading the book. He has had an impressive political run when you consider that he was first MSP in 1999 and has been there ever since.

Obviously Harper's achievement - putting Greens on the pariamentry map in Britain - wouldn't have been possible without PR for the Scottish parliament - but he's clearly hugely respected by his party members and many voters.

According to his resignation press release he has served alongside fifteen other party leaders, outlasting eleven of them. But then he is used to going the distance having run five Edinburgh marathons as well as the Glasgow and London marathons.