Martin Hannan: Let’s switch on to a bright idea

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At first it sounded like yet another daft idea emerging from the nuthouse on the High Street.

A decree has gone forth from the City Chambers – let there be light. Lots of lights. All over the place. So that Edinburgh’s finest buildings can be seen to their best at night.

Illuminating a whole bunch of buildings across the city at a time when the council is facing drastic budget cuts sounds like the reasoning of the damned. The city is going to hell in a handcart so let’s get all lit up and at least people will see what a crazy place this is.

I admit I wondered who came up with the idea at such a time. We are supposed to be a city that’s trying to be low carbon, but if you are blazing on the horizon like a gigantic torch then you are not exactly showing a good example of energy saving.

I can hear the debate taking a more negative turn – which parts of the city should we keep in the dark? Will the troll-like denizens of certain areas come out of their caves if we turn on the lights full beam?

Can we keep the lights pointing up because we really don’t want to highlight areas where potholes are endemic. You only had to view Channel 5’s coverage of the Great Edinburgh Run on Sunday to wince at the state of our streets.

There are whole swathes of Edinburgh which just aren’t very pretty, so if we leave them out of the illumination plan, lighting up our best buildings and darkest parts of the Old Town actually begins to make a lot of sense.

The citizenry will need to be convinced, however, that spending any extra money at this time is worthwhile. Was any cost-benefit analysis done on the project?

I am always amazed how few Scottish projects involving the use of public money are subjected to the sort of cost-benefit analysis which has been standard practice in the United States for decades.

I am presuming such an analysis has been done on this idea, so could we see the results please?

A few statistics about potential increase in visitors and some pertinent comparisons with other cities would also bolster the argument for the new lights.

I can assure you that the arguments from the naysayers will start with the usual suspects who just want to stay wreathed in darkness. Light pollution is a serious issue only for astronomers and people who like to sleep with their curtains open, so we can safely say they are in the minority.

I think that after consultation, the majority of the Capital’s people will recall visits to cities where creative illumination is standard practice – Paris, Rome and Berlin spring most readily to mind – and say yes, we would like that sort of dramatic effect here in Edinburgh.

We are proud of this city, so let’s show it off, though not, please not, with a blank cheque.

Put a sock in it

THE editor of this newspaper is a fair and honourable man. Proof of that is that he gives space to non-journalistic people to put over a point of view that does not chime with reality.

On Saturday, the Mouthpiece section was written by Willie Rennie, the leader of Scotland’s Liberal Democrats who is in charge of the toxic rump of a party and got the job because he was the only candidate, which says much about the dearth of talent in that moribund caucus.

In my humble opinion, Rennie is a bandwagon-jumper of Blairite proportions and in Mouthpiece he ranted – it’s his default way of arguing – about Sir Peter Housden, head of the civil service in Scotland, and his “enthusiasm for the SNP”.

What a perfectly odious man Rennie is. He knows that all his insults against Alex Salmond have only made the First Minister more popular, so he took his lead – he usually does – from those here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians, Iain Gray and Annabel Goldie, and vented his spleen against a man they know cannot answer back.

How hypocritical, how cowardly and how wrong – proof once again that the unionists simply do not realise how fundamentally Scotland has changed. They think the public cares about such things as civil servants being impartial, which, it should be said, Sir Peter always is in exercise of his duties on a daily basis.

The Scottish people care most about getting Scotland fixed after years of unionist neglect, and that’s why Alex Salmond and the SNP – and Sir Peter Housden, too – get the endorsement of me and a growing number of Scots.

Sir Peter is also reflecting what I know to be true, that civil servants – especially those close to Holyrood – have been utterly amazed and inspired by the passionate can-do nature of the SNP ministers, and by their sheer professionalism compared with the previous lazy Labour and Lib Dem cabinets full of salaried numpties.

Rennie pointed out that civil servants must be “able to command the confidence of the next First Minister and cabinet ministers”.

Well, I’ve got some good news for Sir Peter. He won’t have to worry about ever commanding Rennie’s confidence as no Lib Dem will ever see a cabinet seat in Scotland again for putting the Tories in power at Westminster.