Praise rings out for man rooted in local living

Tributes have come in thick and fast for Stewart Blaik, the Chair of Leith Central Community Council, who died on 9th November, one day after his 75th birthday. A founding member and Chair of the original Lorne CC set up in 1998, Stewart led the changeover to Leith Central CC in 2006.

He ran tight meetings and insisted on sticking to procedural rules, but at the same time encouraged lively debate and confidence in tackling controversial issues. As a result meetings were stimulating and consistently well attended by people with a range of interests and skills from the local community.

Of the many comments of praise and gratitude received from across the city, the best wake-up call to community councillors, and endorsement of of their value, comes from Neighbourhood Manager for City Centre and Leith, Mike Penny.

“Although I only knew Stewart for a short while, he brought many great attributes to the workings of the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership. Most memorable of these was his commitment to the principle that we were there to serve the people of Leith; that their views were more important than those of paid staff, and his strongly stated opinion that he was the conduit of the peoples’ view (and don’t you forget it!).

“In planning for meetings colleagues and myself would look at any proposals and ask ourselves “What will Stewart think of this?”. The ‘Stewart Test’ will continue to be applied as a small tribute to his efforts.”

Convenor of the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership, Cllr Louise Lang (Lib Dems) said that Stewart kept politicians on their toes. ”Stewart was a great character and a hardworking and committed community man,” she said. ” His determination to get the best for Leith was a real testament to his love of the area and his pride in our neighbourhood.

“We didn’t always agree, but we enjoyed a healthy debate on the important issues, and he never let us politicians get away with anything. It really will not be the same without him, and we will all miss his animated contributions at our meetings.”

MSP for North Edinburgh, Malcolm Chisholm (Lab)was also quick to pay his respects. “Stewart was very widely respected and admired because of his tireless devotion to the community and his involvement in so many local activities and issues,” he said. “He was rooted in the trade union movement and this showed in the courage , integrity and sense of solidarity that he brought to all that he did.”

Leith Walk Ward Councillor Deidre Brock (SNP)spoke warmly of the affection that Stewart stirred in all who knew him. “He was not just well-respected and appreciated by us all for his tireless championing of Leith and its residents young and old,” she said. “But Stewart was also very well liked. I am sure I speak for every member of the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership when I say how grateful we are for the tremendous contribution he made to his community. We’re all really going to miss him.”

Counillor Ricky Henderston, Pentland Hills Ward, praised Stewart’s Chairing skills: ”Stewart’s many years of activity and training within the trade union movement instilled in him a sense of order and priority,” he said. ” Structure and debate are at the heart of democratic decision making and Stewart believed that everyone was entitled to their say and that issues should be fully debated before a conclusion and decision reached. This was a discipline and a skill that Stewart took from his trade union life into his community activity and it served him, and others, well over the years. He was a traditionalist and a believer in strong communities and local identity and all his efforts and energy were channeled towards these goals.

EACC Chair David Salton said: “Stewart’s involvement as a trade union official, Labour Party activist and Community Councillor showed he had the concern, care, commitment and compassion to improve people’s lives and conditions — for which he asked neither reward nor recognition. For him the satisfaction and pleasure was in the service he gave.”

Fellow Ccllrs also paid their respects. Vice-chair of Leith Central CC John Hein said that Stewart was an “excellent chairman, while secretary Roland Reid acknowledged his “boundless energy”. “Stewart was forthright in expressing his views,” Roland added. You always knew where you stood with him, and this made working with him enormously rewarding.”

Stewart Blaik, an outstanding activist and much-loved member of the Edinburgh community died on 9th November, 2011.