DCSIMG

The show's over for Mr Edinburgh

ERIC MILLIGAN’S 13 years as Lord Provost have been marked by controversy, colour and success.

He delighted in being the Capital’s First Citizen and has been recognised as an effective ambassador for the city.

He travelled the world to promote Edinburgh’s cause. He enjoyed mixing with the stars and found himself on first name terms with Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Sir Sean Connery.

Not everyone has liked his style, but no-one has questioned his commitment to the city of his birth.

Mr Milligan first became a councillor in 1974. And in the early 1980s, he was Finance Convener on Lothian Regional Council when it threatened to defy the Thatcher government over spending cuts.

Malcolm Rifkind, then a junior Scottish Office minister, denounced the council leaders as a group of Marxists.

He then became Convener of Lothian Region in 1990 and had his four-year term extended by a further two years because the regional council was about to be abolished.

Having served six years as civic head at regional level, he was then elected the first Lord Provost under the new single-tier Edinburgh City Council in 1996.

His reign as Lord Provost got off to a difficult start when it was revealed accommodation at the City Chambers was about to be converted into a private room, complete with en suite toilet and shower, for his wife Janis, the Lady Provost.

The news broke as a row raged over cuts in council services across the city.

The plan, which had been hatched without the knowledge of even the Labour group, was shelved after the controversy.

And Mr Milligan shrugged off the embarrassment to pursue his mission of promoting Edinburgh.

But he became embroiled in an unintentional controversy when he went on a four-day Christmas shopping trip to New York. He sang the praises of the Big Apple in an interview broadcast across the UK by BBC TV and radio, saying he and Janis had made big savings on their presents.

But he was criticised by Edinburgh traders, battling to win festive custom after a tough year and a Labour councillor called for him to apologise to the city.

Mr Milligan’s Lord Provostship has seen Edinburgh establish itself as one of the premier places in the world to be for Hogmanay.

But the celebrations provided another banana skin when he was asked to explain the meaning of Hogmanay.

In a television interview, he said it was a Gaelic word, but according to the Chambers Dictionary, it probably derives from the 16th century French "aguillanneuf", which means a gift at New Year, and is thought to be a corruption of the Latin Calendae.

And after his erroneous explanation, the Lord Provost was described as an "erse" - the old Lowland Scots word for Gaelic which also sounds like a term of abuse.

A dyed-in-the-wool Hearts fan, Mr Milligan came in for some stiff criticism after he swigged from a bottle of Buckfast to celebrate Hearts’ 1998 Scottish Cup victory.

He had been passed the bottle as thousands partied into the night to celebrate the club’s first Scottish Cup success in 42 years. But the tipple caused outrage among members of the public in the letters page of the Evening News.

As well as being Lord Provost, Mr Milligan serves as Lord Lieutenant, one of the city’s oldest offices, first established in the 16th century.

And the post gives him the job of meeting and greeting members of the Royal Family whenever they come to the Capital.

He met the Pope in February 2001 when on a week’s private holiday in Rome for a rugby match.

The Pope joked with the Lord Provost about the Scottish passion for sport and reminisced about his own visit to Murrayfield Stadium nearly 18 years ago. And he was back in Rome for the 400th anniversary of the Pontifical Scots College in 2001.

Last year, he followed in the footsteps of stars such as Catherine Zeta Jones and Leonardo DiCaprio by having his teeth whitened.

He declared himself pleased with the 680 process. "Smiling is an important part of politics. You have go to radiate a positive message," he said.

He also got a trendy new haircut thanks to a makeover from Edinburgh hairdressing guru Charlie Miller. Mr Milligan had put up with years of ribbing over his previous pudding-basin cut and was even labelled "the worst Fringe show in the city".

Earlier this year, he received a top honour to mark his commitment to the Auld Alliance between France and Scotland.

He was named an "Ambassador of the Auld Alliance" by civic leaders in the French capital, marking his long-standing love affair with Paris, a city he and his wife Janice have visited many times over the years. And the ceremony for the occasion featured ladies from the famous Moulin Rouge.

He had already been awarded France’s top honour, the National Order of Merit, in 1994.

Four years ago, there was talk of replacing Mr Milligan as Lord Provost, but in the end the Labour group voted him back into office.

It made him the first Lord Provost of Edinburgh to hold office for two consecutive terms in the post’s 700-year history.

However, some councillors said at the time that he should not be given a third term.

And the discussions about a replacement began in earnest earlier this year.

Some senior members of the Labour group let it be known they felt it would be an "embarrassment" if he stood for a third term.

Mr Milligan said at the time he could not make a decision then and stressed that everything depended on the election.

Because of his success in raising Edinburgh’s profile internationally, there has been speculation that Mr Milligan could be in line for top post as an ambassador for Scottish tourism.

 
 
 

Back to the top of the page

 

EDINBURGH
FESTIVALS
2014

#WOWFEST

In partnership with

Complete coverage of the festivals. Guides. Reviews. Listings. Offers

Let's Go!

No Thanks