My worries over Caltongate grow

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THE 2000 objections to the Caltongate development came from town planners, architects, people who live in the Old Town, elsewhere in the city and outside the Capital: a disparate group possibly only united in their pride in, and concern for, Edinburgh.

It's against democratic precedent and good practice in a properly participative community for such a volume of opinion to be over-ridden, even after an eight-hour-long city council meeting, without strenuous attempts to bridge the gap between developer and objectors.

It looked as if this might happen, and some people who objected to the original plans took a step back to see what modifications would be made.

Personally, I was disappointed by the number of homes in the "affordable" range for young families in the city centre. I was I also unsure about the architecture, given the heart-stoppingly beautiful background of Calton Hill, the Old Royal High etc. But because of a desire to support innovation, rather than always clamour for no change to the city we love, I decided to watch developments and, I hoped, further changes to the design and Caltongate plan.

But my goodwill, patience and optimism were blown out of court when I read about Allan Murray's dismissal of the 2000 objections to his development as "thoughtless". According to the Caltongate architect, the "objections show a real ignorance of the city, and "lack thoughtfulness". What a cheek.

He included the Cockburn Association, established in 1875, to which Edinburgh citizens owe gratitude for its dogged determination to maintain its standards of harmony, balance and beauty for the city's built heritage – sometimes against strong tides of fashionable opinion, vested interest and commercial insensitivity. It can sound stuffy. . . a parody of the socially stiff Edinburgh invented by Glasgow comedians. But the conservation group was a very important part of the larger civic grouping that stopped Edinburgh replicating Glasgow's mistake in demolishing a great number of the Victorian buildings that gave the one-time second city of the Empire its unique character.

The Caltongate architect, though, is hoist by his own petard when he accuses the Cockburn Association of "attacking developments for decades, saying that each one would ruin Edinburgh forever".

Strange then, that the association should have been so measured in its objections to what we are told is the most important building in Scotland for a century. . . the Holyrood Parliament.

Its members were loathe to appear negative and time-warped. But as most people now agree, their doubts were well-founded as regards the exterior of the building. Mr Murray is a fan.

That fact, and his cheap shot at linking the objections to his plan to the over-crowded, dirty and diseased Edinburgh of the 17th century, has stiffened my resolution in favour of further investigation of the present plan up to and including a public inquiry, if that's what it takes to bring about a development of the city that reflects the character, standards and ambition of its citizens.

According to Mr Murray, objections are "so emotionally charged" as to be scary. Yet he says the city would "once again be teetering on the brink of disaster" just as it did in the 17th century. Spinning facts to promote one's beliefs or projects to that extent is what I'd call scary.

Boyle is hot stuff

If you haven't already done so, and could do with a bit of cheering-up, make your way to the first floor of the City Arts Centre in Market Street. Frank Boyle, the Evening News cartoonist and two-times winner of the Cartoonist of the Year Award, has his work on display.

I was a guest at the opening reception, along with dozens of his other victims. All the earnest, 24/7 city councillors he's drawn as vampires: ex-leader of the council Donald Anderson; and bovver boys: deputy leader of the council Steve Cardownie – were unstinting in their praise of his sharp insight and wicked humour.

Me? I just wish he wouldn't draw me as a wee fat wummin in a pleated skirt reminiscent of the fashion paraded at the Co-op Guild, circa 1953. I never wear pleated skirts.

Brown's irony fist

Gordon Brown was oblivious to the irony in his statement supporting (OK, commenting on) Wendy Alexander's intention to have a commission to examine what further powers are needed by Holyrood.

He backed Wendy all the way, he said, in her open-minded review of the powers presently held by Holyrood.

But, he went on, there would be no question of independence or any other ideological policy being discussed. Scotland would remain British.

How come consideration of sovereignty/independence, on its merits compared with the other possibilities is ideological, when failure to examine Broon's British sovereignty on its merits is not?