A Provost’s View - A county stepping out of the shadow of the capital city

Midlothian Provost Councillor Peter Smaill.
Midlothian Provost Councillor Peter Smaill.

As Provost since May 2018, I’m delighted to welcome the recently-appointed Grace Vickers (formerly Head of Education), who is now our new chief executive, and will be heading the council staff of over 3300.

The council is a complex entity in which the backbone of public service delivery is joined up, as it were, by a nerve system of financial and performance reporting. We also look regularly at ranking versus other authorities; in so doing there is positive news. Educational attainment is improving. By the end of S6, at higher level, 61 per cent of pupils have achieved one or more Highers, up 10 per cent compared with 2014. A total of 94.4 per cent of Midlothian school leavers also now secure a positive destination, such as a further education course or apprenticeship. This is our highest ever recorded figure.

The recently-opened Newbattle High School with its state-of-the art IT facilities is a key pillar in opening up opportunity for the future.

In my time working with the council that information nerve system sometimes has not delivered as it should. We continue to battle with consultants and contractors over the problematic Newbyres housing development. The Roads function is under review, and while investigations are underway little can be stated publicly. But from the position of Provost it can be said that all the parties in the council want as a priority to strengthen the systems of the council.

This is a great area in its own right, and not just a shadow of the capital to the north. As Provost there has been an enjoyable start to community engagement through the Gala season, the expression of community-led Midlothian. When I recall the Midlothian I knew at Roslin in the 1980s, the rise in living standards and the diversification of economic activity has been astonishing.

The secret is well out that our quality of life makes residence here highly desirable. The plans for growth – going from 88,600 souls to over 100,000 by 2026 – will create opportunity, but also the challenge to preserve the character of the area.”