Rolls Royce final closure should be town's wake up call

The sadness we all feel at the final loss of a major employer, such as Rolls Royce, should spur on our leaders to be much more ambitious and forward looking for the town’s future, say local Greens.

This weekend’s ReimagiNation EK festival will encourage us to reflect on our town’s past and debate its future - a discussion with the town's people that is long overdue. East Kilbride was a pioneering town, embracing new ideas and new ways of doing things. EK New Town created affordable housing for all, quality jobs, decent local services and a well maintained living environment. But over the years, these unique qualities have been eroded. It’s not too late though - local people still have a pioneering spirit and innovative ideas, which the right approach could harness. We want the debate about the town's future to spread far beyond the usual suspects. That way, money will be spent more on what people actually need, rather than priorities determined from on high.

The EK group of the Scottish Greens contribution to the debate outlines three main actions to build a brighter future for our town:

  • Renew local democracy: Individuals, communities, businesses and public agencies all have ideas, skills and assets to improve our town. The council needs to facilitate proper community planning, with local neighbourhoods at the heart of creating and implementing a plan to serve the local needs and priorities determined by local people. If these plans are to make an impact, decision making and funding need to be transferred to a much more local level than SLC HQ.  
  • Invest in public services and local businesses: Public sector cuts and privatisation of former public assets like land and neighbourhood shopping centres have left a legacy of closed libraries, struggling services, poor maintenance and a social housing crisis that has festered for far too long. The services we all rely on are starved of cash and need the investment that replacing the council tax would bring. Other innovations that are working elsewhere would help too. For example setting up publicly owned energy and transport companies and investing in locally based businesses would keep money and jobs in the local economy. Public companies would be accountable to local people and not leave, as others have done, due to global economic conditions or the whim of shareholders in offshore tax havens.
  • Create a low carbon, healthy, socially just future: EK was known all over the world for its innovation, for the New Town social experiment and new technologies. We still benefit from that pioneering legacy with many companies and institutions paving the way for a low carbon future to meet the modern day challenge of climate change. Let's harness this expertise and retrofit every house in the town as a low carbon house, cutting fuel poverty and creating hundreds of new jobs and apprenticeships. Our footpaths, cycleways and greenspaces are crying out for improvement to help people get healthy and active. Directing investment into these, public transport and social housing will deliver for our town's basic needs and provide long term benefits for all.

Let us make EK's 70th anniversary and Rolls Royce's final departure, a turning point for our town. By building on our founding principles as a New Town and reimagining our neighbourhoods to meet today's challenges, East Kilbride can be ‘The Town of Tomorrow’ again.