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Let’s spend a million! The Communist plan for building a better Edinburgh

Giving seminars to students which introduce them to the wide range of materials held in our collections allows us to open up the boxes and display some of the items we hold. When putting together a selection of material for a seminar this week I came across this wonderful pamphlet in our Tait and Watson collection. Written in 1938 it lays out the ambitious plans put forward by the Communist Party for the improvement of Edinburgh. Buoyed by a huge increase in the Labour and Communist vote in Edinburgh municipal elections the pamphlet proposed “ten years of construction for the capital.” The improvements suggested included an extension of Princes Street and the creation of boulevards, gardens and floodlit fountains like those in Brussels; the removal of the slums found in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat and the construction of 3,000 new municipal houses every year; and the development of Portobello’s seaside attractions with the addition of a new pier and a tower to rival those in Blackpool and Paris.

A selection of pamphlets from the Tait and Watson Collection.

The Tait and Watson collection consists of material relating to the history of left wing politics in Scotland collected by William Tait, son of the Scottish Socialist pioneer Thomas Tait, and William Watson, a politically-active Clydeside welder and collector. It includes books, newspapers, pamphlets and the archives of a number of small Edinburgh-based left wing parties who were active in the first half of the twentieth century. The pamphlet collection includes over 3,000 titles on a variety of national and international topics and provides a first-hand illustration of the political debate that was generated by such major events as the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. Full details of the pamphlets can be found on our library catalogue – do a classmark search for ‘Watson pamphlet’ or ‘Tait pamphlet’ to get an idea of the range of title and topics included.