Climate change effort not helped by Extinction Rebellion and hapless Edinburgh Council's bike-hire failings – Stephen Jardine

It used to be that going on a demonstration was pretty straightforward. You just needed a placard to express your displeasure and a donkey jacket to keep you warm.

Extinction Rebellion wear rat masks as they protest outside the Department of Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy in central London (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)
Extinction Rebellion wear rat masks as they protest outside the Department of Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy in central London (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

Today it’s more complicated. To take part in an Extinction Rebellion protest, you seem to need a failed qualification in drumming, an orange nylon wig that, of course, can’t be recycled and an overwhelming sense of moral superiority. Then the virtue signalling can begin.

One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic was the absence of Extinction Rebellion from our streets but now they are back to remind us what happens when posh kids can’t be sent abroad on a gap year.

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Thankfully it’s a long time since anyone took them seriously. Extinction Rebellion lost the room when their white middle-class protesters foolishly went to the poorest parts of London to stop commuters trying to get to work using an environmentally friendly train. As a result, these days their antics are just a noisy distraction.

Happily the solid job of tackling climate change continues despite them. Scotland has some of the most ambitious carbon targets in the western world and with our natural energy creating potential, we're well placed to help lead the way to a better world.

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We are even set to have Greens in a cooperation agreement in government, attempting to ensure the environment takes centre stage.

While Extinction Rebellion were busy this week reciting Creole prayers to mark the Haitian revolution, the rest of us were getting on with recycling and doing our best to protect the planet while working to pay taxes to fund the big structural changes around transport and alternative energy that are required. We all get it.

Now we just need Edinburgh City Council to get on board. Fresh from closing key roads for resurfacing just as the schools return, leading to more congestion and vehicle emissions, Scotland’s most hapless local authority last week announced the capital’s hugely popular bike hire scheme is being axed.

Operators Serco have pulled the plug because it’s no longer financially viable due to high levels of vandalism. Attempts to find a funding solution with the council that would allow the three-year deal to be extended have failed. As it stands, the bike hire scheme will cease next month.

How can that happen? Every other major capital city has a successful bike scheme, so why can’t Edinburgh?

The explanation probably lies in the city council’s antipathy towards business and a determination that not a penny of public cash should be spent on providing bike hire. This in a city that spent £776 million on trams and is currently pouring £207 million into a line extension. Plus the cost of the inquiry into what went wrong with the original project.

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Given that level of spending, financial support to rescue the bike hire scheme would be a drop in the ocean and needs to be provided. More than that, it would also demonstrate Edinburgh’s commitment to getting people out of cars and onto alternative methods of getting about.

The cost of the trams would be enough to buy about six million bikes to leave scattered around Edinburgh for anyone to use at any time without having to hire them or vandalise them. Now there’s a thought.

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