I started organising for Build Back Better in Edinburgh this summer for two main reasons. The first, admittedly, was sheer, eye-rolling boredom.
The second was that I saw, amidst all the tragedy and chaos, a unique opportunity for our society to have a hard reset. Normal life had abruptly paused, and in its place lay a vacuum in which any and all ideas about our future were suddenly on the table.
For me, Build Back Better’s urgent vision of a green and just recovery encapsulates the very best of these ideas. As the website puts it, ‘we need something new.’
Our recovery from COVID needs to address everyone's needs
We need a post-coronavirus recovery plan that protects the most vulnerable, that safeguards our vital public services, and that restructures our financial systems so power is redistributed to people, workers and communities.
Above all, we need a transformative Green New Deal to decarbonise the economy in a way that creates many thousands of well-paid jobs nationwide.
Though Build Back Better is a fledgling organisation in Edinburgh, the groundswell of public support for our values on a local scale has been fantastically heartening.
How Edinburgh Can Build Back Better
In September, we organised a public Q&A with Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard entitled ‘How Edinburgh Can Build Back Better’, at which attendees could put their questions to Mr Sheppard about our city’s post-COVID recovery.
It was a tinderbox of constructive ideas. We spoke about local Universal Basic Income trials, regulation on private landlords, the need for free, holistically integrated public transport, and the role of the arts in a wellbeing economy, amongst many other topics.
Afterwards, we consolidated Build Back Better’s core nationwide values with the ideas brought forward in the discussion. There is a clear local appetite for these changes.
Public support for a green and sustainable Edinburgh
Our vision for a green recovery also includes all Edinburgh residents having access to fairly priced, good quality housing, with all future developments being sustainable and efficient.
We are also demanding significant investment in hyper-local economies. Edinburgh must refocus towards the flourishing of independent and local enterprises, communities and organisations, rather than attracting big businesses to the city centre.
Enabling residents to work flexibly and close to home in thriving, economically active local areas can surely only accelerate a green and just recovery. At the very least, it would alleviate the nightmarish pollution and congestion of the city’s road system.
We subsequently outlined all of this in a letter to Mr Sheppard, signed by a diverse array of local businesses, organisations and groups, to show him our vision, and asking for him to publicise it amongst his Westminster colleagues.
Next steps to recovery
Our next project is to be a video showcasing our magnificent city and its residents’ vision of building back better here. We will most likely be shooting it around Edinburgh in January – if you see us, please come say hello and share your ideas!
Oh, and by the way, if you ever hear Boris using the slogan ‘Build Back Better’, that’s got nothing to do with us…
By Jack Titley, Build Back Better Edinburgh