By Martin Graham
A STRETCH of road outside the home of Scotland’s top Catholic has been given a £22,000 makeover in time for the Pope’s visit to Scotland – with taxpayers set to foot the bill.
The 80-metre length of road outside the Edinburgh residence of Cardinal Keith O’Brien has been re-laid with tarmac and the lamp posts have been painted in readiness for the Pope Benedict’s visit to the capital on 16 September.
Council officials denied that the work carried out in Greenhill Gardens in the Morningside area of the city was related to the Pope’s visit.
But locals are suspicious.
Graeme Kirkpatrick, 38, who lives in the area and works in IT, said: “I hope the Catholic Church are getting the bill.
“They’re also painting the lampposts which I found very strange as there was nothing wrong with the old ones.
“This gets up my nose because there was absolutely nothing wrong with the road, and this is coupled with the fact that they are not doing the whole street.”
Cardinal Keith O’Brien is the leader of the Archdiocese of Edinburgh and St Andrews.
The Cardinal’s residence, known as St. Bennet’s house, is the setting for a lunch for Pope Benedict XVI after he had toured the city in the pope mobile.
The pontiff will enjoy some relaxation time at St Bennet’s house before moving on to celebrate mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, site of the last open air mass by Pope John Paul II when he visited Scotland in 1982.
Conservative Councillor Mark McInnes, who represents the Morningside area said: “The city needs to look its best for the Pope’s visit but residents deserve the same treatment all year round.
“It should be a matter of course and not just when there’s a VIP visitor.”
St Bennet’s House and the grounds are currently being spruced up, but the costs are being met by the church.
The council’s environmental leader, Councillor Robert Aldridge said: “We are continuing to spend record sums on clearing the backlog of road repairs across the city.
“Having assessed Greenhill Gardens in March, it fell into the category of streets most in need of repair and was therefore included in the works.”
A spokesman for the council said: “Our main focus is on management of the Pope’s visit and the logistics of that.
“The work at Greenhill Gardens was not related to the arrival of the Pope.
“We are working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Cabinet Office, Lothian and Borders Police and their Met colleagues to ensure the visit goes smoothly.”