‘This feels like a missed opportunity’

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THE SNP Government has put great emphasis on its efforts to tackle Scotland’s long-standing love affair with booze.

And no one could accuse Alex Salmond of shying away from a fight in his determination to change the law in an effort to alter our drinking habits.

On his plans for minimum pricing for alcohol and the so-called “public health supplement” to be levied on supermarkets that sell alcohol and tobacco he has if anything relished facing down vocal protests.

So it is a surprise to see the SNP kicking its plans for a “social responsibility levy” to be paid by pubs and other licensed premises into the long grass.

Maybe the nationalists feel they do not need another fight to distract them, especially with the big battle for independence looming ahead.

While this newspaper continues to question the wisdom of legislation such as minimum pricing which punishes sensible drinkers alongside problem ones, this feels like a missed opportunity.

The “social responsibility levy”, especially in the form that Edinburgh intended to use it, would have forced those bars linked to the worst excesses of binge drinking to share the cost of cleaning up the mess their customers create. That is something the city’s police would surely have welcomed as they contemplate cost-cutting measures.

We deserve better

The PFI deal which saw the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary built and run by Consort has never been short of critics.

Ever since the hospital opened in 2003 there has been a string of stories, from the ridiculous tales of running out of toilet paper to the stunning revelation that a building which cost £190 million will end up costing the taxpayer £1.26 billion by the end of the contract in 2028.

The debate about private finance for public projects will no doubt continue for almost as long, but in the meantime we need to know the deal is working as well as it can for the taxpayer, patients and staff.

Our recent revelations about staff being allowed to work without criminal records checks, fire alarms being out of action for days and now a power failure which left a baby to be delivered by the light of a mobile phone will cause widespread concern.

It is reassuring that NHS Lothian is cracking down hard by issuing a £100,000 fine to its private partners but patients will want to know that the root problems, whatever they may be, are being addressed too. After all, we are all paying a premium for this hospital. We deserve it to be the best.