Knowing the cost of everything, the value of nothing

By March 11, 2011Uncategorized

Like all Leithers, Indigo watches the on-going Edinburgh trams saga with a certain degree of bewilderment, leavened with just a hint of optimism that we might get the chance to ride a shiny new tram all the way to the airport someday hence. 

So, the news that mediation talks are underway between the great minds at tram firm TIE, the city council, Bilfinger Berger, Siemens and Transport Scotland is to be welcomed. We wish them well on what we’re promised will be a two-week, top secret effort to bash heads together and get things going again at last. After all, the first tram was supposed to wend its way through the city on 25 February this year and here we are in March, a tram-less city like many others.

So, with the mediation talks set to be ultra-secretive, the Edinburgh chattering classes have had little but speculation to comment on at the outset of the process. That led onlookers with little option but to devote column inches to the choice of venue for the talks. Unfortunately some bright spark decided to book the five-star Mar Hall Hotel, proudly overlooking the Clyde. 

The word “luxury” has been thrown around with gleeful abandon by the papers, while MSPs Shirley-Anne Somerville and David McLetchie have been quick to point out that taxpayers won’t be impressed by the implied expense.

They may have a point. Perhaps an east coast location with a lower profile, at a cheaper cost, might have been wiser. But, in all of this discussion about the window dressing, has the point been missed? Surely it’s the outcome of the talks that commentators should be focusing on and debating, not the fact the Kylie is amongst the A-listers who have stayed there?

There’s a phrase that talks of “knowing the cost of everything, the value of nothing”. That could describe perfectly the attitude many have taken towards this summit. In PR terms, with lots of easy point scoring, the comments have been shallow rather than substantive. If we had been advising any one of those who have been critical of the cost of this summit, we would have directed them away from the predictable cry of “how much?” to having them set out terms for what they hoped to see as a successful outcome. Perhaps demanding clarity about what the participants hope to achieve in real terms from this summit might actually give value to council taxpayers going forward? Not sure that knowing how much the bedrooms cost does…