A MUSSELBURGH writer has penned a short story relating to local concern about tree felling as part of the town’s flood protection scheme.

Former Musselburgh councillor Margaret McKay, who was also former chief executive of Children 1st, CHAS and director of Childline Scotland, wrote the piece for the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) Winter Warmer event, which was held at Fisherrow Community Centre in Musselburgh last month.

Mrs McKay, of Eskside West, was a board member and chair of Carers of East Lothian until 2019, and was the carer representative on East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership.

Now retired, she is a participant in the EIBF Citizen Writing Project which operates in Musselburgh and North Edinburgh, encouraging local people to take up creative writing.

She told the Courier: “I am also a supporter of the local residents’ group which has been calling for a pause in the proposed flood protection scheme in order that alternative nature-based solutions can be explored, with the objective of safeguarding the local environment and providing better value for money.

“Living directly on the riverbank as I do, I have a strong personal interest in flood prevention.”

East Lothian Courier: Margaret McKayMargaret McKay (Image: Public)

Mrs McKay said that one of the exercises for writing group members was to produce a piece about their favourite tree.

The authors then got the chance to read out their own work at the winter warmer event.

Mrs McKay chose to write about a tree on the banks of the River Esk, opposite her front window, which was part of a public campaign last summer.

She said: “I decided to write about the way in which East Lothian Council tried to shut down the group’s efforts to highlight the number of trees which would be cut down to accommodate the proposed flood prevention scheme.”

Her story – The Protest Tree – is based on objectors being told to remove materials from trees in Musselburgh in August last year.

East Lothian Council said at the time that, following a number of complaints, it surveyed about 150 trees which had bands of fabric and laminated tags attached to them.

The plastic tags had links to a plea to ‘pause the scheme’ and which led to the Facebook page of the Musselburgh Flood Protection Action Group.

The council added that it was concerned about inappropriate behaviour in making public statements.

It said that the ribbons placed around the trees were trapping dampness which could damage the tree bark and adversely affect the health of the trees.

The council issued an open appeal for those who added the ribbons to remove them by a certain date or they would be removed.

Mrs McKay argued: “I – and many others – find it inexplicable that East Lothian Council is happy to see the trees festooned by lights illuminated day and night but deem lightly tied scarves a serious threat.”

East Lothian Courier: The River Esk cuts through MusselburghThe River Esk cuts through Musselburgh (Image: Contributed)

The Protest Tree by Margaret McKay

The posters read “Pause the Flood Scheme Now!”

The protestors have tied scarves loosely around all the trees scheduled to be cut down as part of the flood scheme proposals.

The trees have no voice. The protestors speak for them.

A command comes from the local Council. Remove the scarves. They threaten the health of the trees.

Harming the trees? Damaging the environment? Can that be true?

The protestors feel guilty.

They lift up a scarf cautiously to see if harm has been done. Wonder!

A whole host of ladybirds are sheltering together on the tree.

Escaping the cold and damp of winter. Protected by the scarf. Asleep until the Spring when they will begin a new cycle.

The protesters will not be intimidated.

The scarves and the posters remain.


Providing a safe overwintering home for the ladybirds.