It has taken a little while, but the SNP Government is beginning to realise that not all decisions are crowd-pleasers. Like the replacement of council tax with local income tax, the bright idea of a Scottish Futures Trust to rebuild schools instead of "costly" public private partnerships is beginning to shine less brightly. As our page one report shows, the lengthy gestation period is beginning to ring alarm bells in the education community - as it should. And it is not just the time it is taking to get a new vehicle for funding public buildings on the road that is worrying, the lack of firm detail about how it might work points to ministerial cold feet. One suspects the two are not unrelated.
Certainly, the responses to the consultation on a Scottish Futures Trust suggest that, to put it at its mildest, the Government has a lot of convincing still to do if people are to be won over. Public private partnerships may have their critics, and cost millions, but they are a proven method and could be building schools now (although opponents of their "cost" often conveniently overlook the fact that it includes a 30-year guarantee of funding repair and maintenance, an easy target in the past for cash-strapped councils).
The bottom line is that companies will not bid for any contracts, whether funded through trusts, PPP or conventional public sector borrowing, if they do not see the prospect of profit. So let us lay that particular chimera to rest.
It is, of course, unfortunate for the Government that it is trying to change the rules of the game just when the construction of facilities for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the London Olympics is beginning to monopolise the market. The answer is not to try to change the rules, which will only add another problem to an already complex picture.