Letters: PFI has proved a costly mistake for Scotland

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THE Private Finance Initiative begun by Tony Blair’s Labour government has turned out to be a poor use of public money, whilst resulting in huge profits for private investors.

Scottish Labour keeps going on about the NHS, but let’s see what they have done for it.

In 2003 the new Royal Infirmary in Little France was constructed for £185 million - £36 million more than originally budgeted and built without air conditioning. PFI costs the NHS Lothian £56 million a year and contracts are typically from 25-30 years. In England it’s even worse with some long term 30-60 year contracts.

Take the case of Liverpool Royal Infirmary. A 30-year PFI deal was calculated to cost the taxpayer a total of £1.24 billion.

In Scotland Larbert hospital had a capital cost of £293 million - PFI cost £1.7 billion.

The Skye Bridge, the first major capital project funded by the Private Finance Initiative, capital cost £25 million - PFI cost £93.6 million.

Hairmyres hospital, Lanarkshire, capital cost £37 million - PFI cost £145 million.

For an £80 million private jail Scots cough up £3 million a month for 25 years to the operators.

These long-term contracts will build up huge debts for future generations.

The SNP government have put a stop to future PFI, but is it any wonder our hospitals are in a state of going bankrupt?

Just think what the NHS could do with this money.

It is forecast that in England by 2030 the NHS will be privately run. We see it happening now bit by bit.

We need to send 41 more SNP MPs to Westminster to help stop the privatisation of our NHS.

Jim Hill, Stenhouse Avenue, Edinburgh

Treasury shows double standards over EU info

It is intriguing to note that the Treasury is withholding information from the public about the impact of an in/out EU referendum on the economy.

During the independence referendum campaign a letter from permanent secretary to the Treasury, Sir Nicholas MacPherson, on the issue of a proposed currency union was published as it was deemed “vital to the national interest”. Curiously it has now refused to publish a report given to UK ministers on the impact of leaving the European Union for reasons of ‘economic interests’

One can only agree with the comment by former Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion (pictured), that “it seems to be that [FOI legislation] is being used here for political advantage”.

If the issue of a currency union during the referendum campaign was deemed ‘vital to the national interest’, it is clearly difficult to argue that the matter of EU withdrawal is not similarly important.

The Treasury is adapting the rules of FOI to suit themselves and the public clearly have a right to know the economic impact of a referendum that could see Scotland ripped out of Europe and the single market against its will, causing massive damage to jobs and investment.

The UK Government cannot pick and choose what information to release based on its political motivations.

Alex Orr, Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh

We must hold on to our city’s green spaces

THE foresight of past generations assured us of many beautiful areas of green spaces around our city.

It also left us other social facilities, sports grounds, golf courses and sports centres. The value of all these to the quality of life and good health is immense.

Over many recent years a backward trend in the protection of these assets has been allowed by governments and local authorities selling off green spaces as building sites, and closing other social facilities, claiming they are too expensive to maintain.

A value analysis has been carried out for the council on Edinburgh’s 140 green spaces. It shows for every £1 spent, £12 is returned in social, environmental and economic benefits in the form of good health and wellbeing; local economy benefitting from users and visitors; schools and colleges giving outdoor education; awareness of environmental protection; impact of social inclusion on the community.

We must all become aware of protecting our green spaces, not just for ourselves but for future generations.

Anthony Delahoy, Silverknowes Gardens, Edinburgh

Council tax should be replaced by income tax

THE letter from Jack Fraser of Musselburgh (News, December 2) on council tax was a breath of fresh air.

This iniquitous tax is based on the market value of a property, which is not a national valuation but a post code lottery.

The banding system in Scotland sets a top taxable property value of £212,000. This means many rich people living in high-value properties often pay a minuscule portion of their income in council tax compared to those at the bottom, who in some cases pay 20 per cent of net income.

Council tax relief is available but subject to means testing and anyone with modest savings will be denied this benefit.

Single occupancy properties are granted a 25 per cent reduction. This means a single occupant pays 75 per cent, while two occupants of a dual occupancy each pay 50 per cent.

This unfair tax should be replaced with a flat rate income tax, under which everyone eligible to pay would pay exactly the same percentage of their taxable income. What could be fairer than that?

The current tax is unfair to older single people, particularly widows living in inflated market-valued houses, existing on a pension.

Bill Prentice, Pendreich Grove, Bonnyrigg