Idle threats - 'Councils need to be smarter in this battle'

When civil servants return to their desks in two days' time the search for the best ways to trim their budgets will resume in earnest.

We can save them a little time by pointing them to our story today about the costly efforts of four local authorities to stop motorists leaving their engines "idling". Any proposals for another scheme like this should be dumped straight in the recycling bin.

A total of 177,000 has been spent - including 65,000 on advertising - with little clear evidence of positive results other than 27 warning letters to drivers reported by members of the public for leaving their engines running for more than three minutes.

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No-one can fault the aims of the Scottish Government, which funded the initiative, or the four councils involved - West, East and Midlothian, along with Falkirk.

But they need to be far smarter if they are to win what is a battle for hearts and minds over the environment.

Will letters that feel like a ticking off from the headteacher really change motorists ways? Or are they more likely to respond to a campaign highlighting how much their habits are hurting their wallets?

Or perhaps any money available would be better invested in green technology which is proven to cut emissions from fume-belching buses?

Better safe than sorry

Social workers often find themselves in positions where they are damned if they do and damned if they don't, especially when it comes to protecting children at risk.

Taking a newborn baby from their mother in the maternity ward has to be a traumatic experience for everyone involved and it is impossible to believe that such a decision is ever taken lightly.

Yet we know only to well in Edinburgh the tragic cost of failing to act decisively enough in cases where a child is at genuine risk.

Despite the obvious horror at the plight of 100 Lothians children whose names are added to the child protection register before they are even born, there is some reassurance in knowing child protection workers are vigilant in so many cases.

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Like the rest of us, they can never know what the consequences of their actions will be, but surely we know enough already to agree that "better safe than sorry" is the best approach for them.