I was invited to Meadowbank stadium last Saturday to address a public meeting organised by campaigners opposed to Council plans to demolish the stadium and build private housing on the site.
Can I first of all say that I have my own very special reasons for keeping this place open.
This is the place where I made my hurdling debut in May 2003 on the night I was elected as an MSP for the Lothians for the SSP.
It was a night /morning I will never forget and this stadium will always have a warm place in my heart. And you know I suspect it has a warm place in all 600 of you too and that’s why you are here and feel so passionate about this issue.
But you know I am no dinosaur, I don’t want to see this place stay as it is, I want to see it improved, I want to see investment in this and indeed all this cities sports and leisure facilities.
I notice that ‘Save Meadowbank Campaign’ has put a leaflet on your seat asking you to get politicians to answer three specific questions. Well let me answer these three questions here and now.
No, I don’t support the demolition of Meadowbank and it used for private housing development.
Yes I do want to see the facilities here refurbished
Yes I do support the widest possible public consultation on the Councils proposals.
And let me go further. I am sick to the back teeth of Councils, Health Boards and others engaging in apparent ‘public consultations’ only to watch them disregard our views completely and do at the end exactly what they intended to do at the beginning. That is a sham, that is not genuine democracy.
The Council, and leader Donald Anderson [who had spoken earlier in the meeting and said that ‘The money just does not exist to refurbish Meadowbank] is forever putting out glossy brochures telling us how successful this city is and how rich it is. But he cannot have it both ways, now telling us today that the money is not there. This is a rich city. Some are having boom times with record profits, labour shortages and soaring house prices. As a socialist I want to see that wealth shared out more evenly, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. And you do not achieve that by closing vital public facilities like this one and building luxury private properties for the few.
Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the first Council house in Scotland for 30 years out at Woodburn in Dalkeith. I grew up in a Council house in Motherwell. Council houses are a great idea, but you would have to be over 30 to remember what they were.
It would be one thing if the Council were coming along here today saying they intended to redevelop Meadowbank and provide 21st century facilities on one part of the site and new Council properties for the people of East Edinburgh on the rest but they are not. Their plan means the loss of precious open space in the East of the city and 90% loss of leisure facilities.
I will not support that and you will not support that.
I understand that the Council has extended the deadline for consultations on their plan until 31st March and that no decision will now be taken before the election. I hope everyone here realizes that this represents a climbdown from their original timetable and that must be see as a victory for your campaigning.
This makes this a huge election issue in the elections and you must decide who you trust to protect this centre when they are on the Council.
I want to see money being spent here on this vital local facility. I want Meadowbank stadium to stay open and I want the new facility at Sighthill too.
But let me just finish by saying this, last week the Westminster Parliament debated whether or not to spend £100billion on Trident nuclear weapons. So let’s not insult each others intelligence by claiming
‘There is no money available for improving Meadowbank!’
I simply will not accept that. There is money for Meadowbank, there is money for Council housing, there is money for free school meals and free public transport, for our pensioners, for our youngsters……there is £100billion pounds available by not building more nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
I support the refurbishment of Meadowbank stadium 100% - Thank You