One of my favourite pastimes during lockdown was to wander the streets and cycle paths. The cycle paths are a godsend for the non-secular among us. I especially enjoy taking a wrong turn and seeing where I end up. Edinburgh really is blessed with these urban arteries.
They stretch far and wide, and may guide one to environs one would never usually venture to. One such place is Baberton Avenue. This street is so wide, a game of kerbie would tax the fittest youngsters, not that any youth residing there would even know what kerbie was. There are no speed bumps, holes in the road, ugly telecoms cables protruding from the walls, cracked and potholed pavements, litter, litter bins or even a bus stop. Not even a parked car can be seen. It's like another world, where imposing arty metalwork gates prevent passers by nebbing over the fence. Even the postman doesn't get near the front door.
Another part of Edinburgh that can be seen on triangular police signs wrapped around the streetlights at Haymarket station is Dumbiedykes Road, a stone's throw from the Scottish Parliament. The streets there are also empty of cars but for a totally different reason.
The legend on the poster states:
Criminals harm our community through drug dealing, money laundering, fraud, cybercrime violence and theft.
Help us tackle serious and organised crime.
It has a picture of Dumbiedykes Road in the background with the nameplate in full view. Now, I'm not a policeman, so I have no knowledge of any of these crimes but I don't think everybody who lives there is a criminal. I was brought up in a high-rise flat and my parents still live there. If I lived in any of these flats, I would be paying a visit to Fettes to ask them to explain themselves.
If we look at the crimes listed on the posters, it would appear that several criminal masterminds are living in the flats instead of luxuriating in some gated community with their ill-gotten gains and their teams of balaclava-clad henchmen. As I say, I'm no expert but if they were such successful criminals, do you not think they would be living in more salubrious circumstances?
The other picture shows high-rise flats with four blocks which must number at least 300 houses. The legend states:
Tell us what you know so we can target Organised Crime and safeguard those at risk.
Help us tackle serious and organised crime.
The final picture shows a view of one of Edinburgh's most celebrated streets – Victoria Terrace. The legend states:
Speak up. Stay safe:
0800 555 111
Stop criminal gangs harming our city.
The poster stops short of my favourite phrase frequently uttered from the feckless cops satirised in the sit-com Early Doors
: 'crime won't crack itself'.
What I am asking is why are there only pictures of public housing in the photographs? Are we really supposed to believe that fraud, for a long time known as a 'white collar' crime, is the preserve of the disadvantaged? When large-scale fraud is committed and makes the headlines, it is never by somebody living in a council flat.
Then we have cybercrime. This covers a multitude of activities and I would guess is also not the preserve of the lower orders.
Or how about money laundering? This is not something that any Joe or Jane can do is it? Surely this requires a business and a bank account with mountains of cash being 'washed'. Do the banks not see this activity? Should the poster not be inside the banks instead of in the street? Should there not therefore be pictures of the houses these felons reside in? Georgian townhouses perhaps, or detached country mansions, where the crims rub shoulders with the lawyers and bankers who assist them in their nefarious deeds? Where deals are done on the golf course rather than on the stairwell.
Recently in The Guardian
, there were several articles about a different sort of activity; cronyism and corruption. This was about the people elected to public office to serve the rest of us. They are very organised and know the law inside out and always stay just the right side of it to stay out of the hoosegow. The corridors of power are buckling with the hubris of the snollygosters, with their hornswoggling and profiteering at the expense of the public purse on contracts that were not advertised for tender, or worse still, were awarded to members of their own family.
One thing I do know about is public contracts. I worked in public procurement for 35 years and never accepted so much as a lunch from a supplier. When I joined the council, the application form had a space where I had to state if I had another job. I asked somebody about this and was told it was because they want to make sure one is not too tired to do the job. I also had to declare if I had any shares in any company.
Then I read the article about how many jobs the current government have and the revolving door between public and private sector jobs. Maybe the researchers for Have I Got News For You
are creating a round as I type? It would appear that it's okay to have more than one job but only if you are an MP and a member of the (very) organised set.
There are reports that the man who holds the highest political office in the land tried to get his party funders to pay for the redecoration of his accommodation. This is a man whose relationship with the truth can at best be described as tenuous, or as Johnathan Freedland so eloquently put it in The Guardian
on 1 May: 'Or maybe the real scandal lies with us, the electorate, still seduced by a tousle-haired rebel shtick and faux bonhomie that should have palled years ago. Americans got rid of their self-serving, scandal-plagued charlatan 100 days ago. They did it at the first possibly opportunity. Next week, the polls suggest we're poised to give ours a partial thumbs-up at the ballot box. For allowing this shameless man to keep riding high, some of the shame is on us'.
Has this man got a crystal ball? Hell mend us. You get what you vote for.
Here's an idea. Why not give the builders and decorators who live in the council flats, I'm sure there are many, the contract to decorate Johnson's quarters. That will keep the criminal masterminds off our streets. However, it won't stop the felonious activity that goes on daily behind the smoke and mirrors in this Disunited Kingdom.
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