Edinburgh demonstrates it's not Vegas, in good ways and bad – John McLellan

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What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and the Marriott-owned W Hotel group has just discovered that as far as Edinburgh is concerned that applies to big neon signs.

The infamous Walnut Whip at the heart of the St James Quarter has grown on me as a modern counterbalance on the Edinburgh skyline to its Edwardian equivalent of the Balmoral, but city planners correctly decided that adorning it with a giant neon W was a step too far. It’s hardly surprising when the wrong colour of door can result in your collar being felt because, in the memorable words of my former colleague Councillor Jo Mowat, the New Town “is a world heritage site, not Balamory”.

Perhaps the idea was to recreate the climactic scene from the zany 60s Hollywood comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, when gangsters’ loot is found beneath “the big dubba-ya”, but it was never going to get past a department which tried to block the use of limestone for the St James exterior.

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Meanwhile, in the licensing committee, it certainly was a mad world, with an application for an early alcohol licence at the Edinburgh Airport Starbucks rejected partly on the basis that some people might make a beeline for Turnhouse for an early snifter. I’ve never seen the attraction of getting tore into the bevvy before cock crow, even when going on holiday, but as the redoubtable Councillor Norrie Work exclaimed: “Let’s be serious here and don’t embarrass ourselves.” But not for the first time, they did.

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