Thursday, June 23, 2011

Edinburgh Tram project receives a fresh blow as Holyrood rejects bailout, it is time to take a deep breath and find the extra £155 million to finish

Dear All

The Labour Party has a thing for trains; they want to build train lines all over the place, classic example Edinburgh Tram project.

When the idea was first mooted, I thought like many others, disaster, Labour has a habit of starting projects that go disastrously wrong.

Scottish Parliament at Holyrood went from £40 million to £440 million under the Labour/Lib Dem coalition.

Anyway, back to trams, there is renewed doubt over its future after the Scottish Government washed its hands of the scheme.

The Holyrood administration is refusing to consider further funding for the stalled scheme after it emerged Edinburgh City Council need another £155 million to finish this white elephant.

The budget is £545m to ensure the trams run to Haymarket from Edinburgh Airport but if no money is forthcoming then everything will be wasted.

If this is scrapped according to long-awaited figures available for the first time, we would all be stuck with a bill for scrapping the project of £750m.

Council papers are expected to confirm today that running the line from the airport and along Princes Street to St Andrew Square would cost £770m which was reported last night on Newsnight Scotland.

We have no choice, we need to stump up the extra £155 million to complete even if it is through gritted teeth.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland, the national transport agency, said:

“The Scottish Government opposed the project, but in June 2007 the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of funding up to a maximum of £500m, a figure that ministers will not increase. The project is and always has been the responsibility of City of Edinburgh Council and the cost of cancellation or taking the trams project forward is a matter for them.”

To throw away the £545 million isn’t an option and neither is scrapping this white elephant.

First Minister Alex Salmond was right when he previously said he believed the project would “come to nothing”.

It was a stupid idea in the first place that went from bad to worse in a rather spectacular short space of time.

There is full council meeting to be held on June 30 to decide the scheme’s future.

And everyone will have to bite the bullet, even Deputy Leader Steve Cardownie who said his SNP group had tried to halt the tram project on four previous occasions.

And go plead with John Swinney for the extra cash which will be a hard ask for him to find given the cuts coming down the pipeline from Westminster.
Bizarrely, the Labour Party has said it plans to call for completion of the project but with a ceiling on council spending.

Completion means completion, so less us not kid ourselves on that front.

Andrew Burns, Edinburgh City Council’s Labour leader, said:

“This is a project that Audit Scotland gave a clean bill of health in June 2007. Since then it has totally unravelled. The figures show the complete and utter failure of the current LibDem/SNP administration to get to grips with the project. They are divided, incompetent and lack the necessary leadership to take the city forward. I believe it would be wrong to commit further public money to trams. We have supported this project since inception, we have attempted to provide positive input while in opposition, yet we feel that the project must be completed within the current funding arrangement. Labour will not support additional council funding being provided to the tram project.”

Amazingly, you would think that the Labour Party was blameless on this issue, this is their white elephant, and their prints are all over it.

With Council elections next year, everyone will be trying to distance themselves from this scandal to be elected but the correct decision is to go forward but appoint external monitors.

And then when it is all done, have a public enquiry into what went wrong.

The people of Edinburgh will get a chance to vote to remove those responsible from continuing as councillors.

They should exercise that right; not seeing this was a colossal mistake is a serious error of judgement.

The Labour Party tried to foster on the people of Glasgow, the GARL project but luckily, that was stopped dead in its tracks, another stupid idea.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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