Martin Hannan: Step up to the plate and sell

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When the Evening News revealed last week that the S0 number plate which belongs to the Lord Provost’s civic car could be put up for sale, I must admit to a case of fast- descending lower mandible.

No, my jaw didn’t drop at the plan to sell off the plate, but at the fact that it could be worth anything up to £500,000 or even more. I know it was reported years ago that S0 was very valuable, but I thought that was because it was attached to a rather natty Rolls-Royce or some such conveyance.

Turns out that all along the number plate was worth many times more than the Provost’s buggy, and this is one suggestion by a political party other than my own SNP which I’m happy to endorse.

If someone seriously offers half a million quid for the plate, the council should bite the buyer’s hand off.

Let’s get real here – it’s just a number plate, whose retention is down to nothing more than snob value, and the Greens are right to suggest its sale.

There will be those who say it is the only thing that lends distinction to the council “limousine” and that Her Majesty and the royals might be offended if they are picked up in any old BMW 7 Series saloon. What rubbish. If anyone thinks the Queen even notices what make of car she is riding in, far less its number plate, then they should be aware that the monarch’s favourite programme isn’t that one with yon big eejit Jeremy Clarkson. Mind you, her husband’s made as many gaffes as the ageing boy racer . . .

The royals are like the rest of us – they just want to get from A to B safely. Note that last word. It is security reasons more than anything which dictate that the Lord Provost’s car, which is used on his Lord Lieutenancy duties, has to be a halfway decent make and model.

We can’t scrap the civic car because it is genuinely needed, but selling S0 makes a deal of sense, and it is certainly worth looking at as we face some lean years ahead as a city.

In this column many months ago, I warned that the new era of austerity caused by the coalition’s disastrous and unnecessary cuts would impact severely on local authorities and we might have to think the unthinkable and jettison council assets.

The Scottish Government has done what it can to minimise the pain, at the same time as freezing the council tax to give people a chance to weather the economic storm, but deep cuts have to be made.

Therefore, why not flog the number plate and any other asset that is not necessary for the maintenance of services and the preservation of jobs? I could think of plenty of paintings in the City Art Collection which never see the light of day and which could make a tidy profit.

It’s no secret that the property department in the council has been ordered to offload buildings and land ASAP, and already a venerable former public convenience has been disposed of – the council isn’t exactly flushed with cash as a result of the sale but, hey, it made a profit.

Plenty more local authority and other publicly-owned assets could be sold without damaging the fabric of the city. Yes, it would be like selling the family silver, something you can only do once, but by all accounts we are at the bottom of the barrel and something has to give before the council gets into serious cash trouble.

My only worry is that somewhere in the labyrinth that is public finance there will be rules and regulations which will mean that cash from asset sales will not be allowed into the council’s bank account but diverted to pay off some sort of interest or other burden.

That should not be allowed. The council must bank the full amount it earns from disposing of assets which, after all, belong to the people and such sale proceeds should be used only to preserve our services. If that can be guaranteed then let the auctions commence. It really is time for S0 to go.

Show topper

I don’t often make recommendations for readers to go and see a show, but I make an exception for South Pacific at the Playhouse, and not just because my pal Ed Crozier’s the producer.

There are only a few shows left in the run so grab a ticket for anywhere in the house and prepare to be joyously entertained.

Some ignorami in these offices were quite scathing at the reports – which I was happy to confirm – that your columnist happily applauded every song belted out by the excellent cast led by the gorgeous Samantha Womack, with Scottish trouper Alex Ferns excellent as Luther Billis.

It seems that the beauty and pizazz of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s lyrics and score is not appreciated by these cloth-eared dolts with their modernistic atonal sensibilities, but the audience on the night I was there lapped it up, as did I.

I am happy to out myself as a huge fan of the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon because their works contain something the younger music fan would barely recognise – melody.

Now bring on the Sound of Music. Doh a deer, anyone?