Dislocation and domicide in Edinburgh, 1950-1975. “We never tried to push people out, unless it was for their own good.”
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date09/07/2020
Civic Edinburgh has an amnesia problem. Despite a healthy secondary literature recounting its colourful history and a thriving heritage industry, the town appears to have forgotten that it evicted significant numbers of its citizens from their homes in the third quarter of the 20th century before violently erasing from existence entire streets and neighbourhoods that had once housed vibrant communities. My research recovers this story. Through extensive use of surviving primary documentation alongside testimony gathered in a series of personal interviews with individuals who experienced, witnessed or participated in clearance activities it has been possible to challenge existing narratives that suggest Edinburgh experienced little or no post-war urban renewal trauma. Further analysis of the uncovered quantitative data places Edinburgh’s clearance activities within their wider Scottish context and reveals that a confirmed 35,237 individuals were compelled to leave their homes and 16,556 houses were either closed or demolished by Edinburgh Corporation between 1950 and 1973. A secondary, underlying narrative, that the majority of those cleared welcomed the opportunity of a new home, is brought into question by the discovery of an academic report from 1967 revealing that just 7.4% of the occupants of the most amenity deficient properties in the capital were on the waiting list for a new Corporation home. In researching the varied qualitative experiences of those who were subjected to statutory clearance an unexpected understory was identified of racial prejudice against ethnic minority households following their clearance notice being issued by the Corporation. Selected extracts from the interview transcripts from over two dozen individuals are offered, giving opinions on slum stigma, notions of “community,” the politics of clearance resistance and views on corruption in Edinburgh, as well as revealing the well-meant paternalism of some officials and the crass indifference of others along with aspects of the emotional and psychological legacy of clearance. Taken altogether it is a body of work that adds serious substance to a previously thinly researched episode in the capital’s history and will contribute significant new material to the disciplines of urban studies and oral history.