Calls for Edinburgh trams inquiry after Minister claims he was misled


By G.A.Ponsonby

A Holyrood MSP has called for an inquiry into the Edinburgh trams fiasco after Finance Secretary John Swinney claimed that he was repeatedly given false information regarding the state of the project.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Swinney said that he had been given assurances that contractual disputes between TIE and the construction firm building the tram lines had been resolved, but these claims later turned out to be “total rubbish”.

Mr Swinney claimed that he resisted the urge to take control of the beleaguered project on several occasions on the basis of information he was repeatedly given by TIE.

Mr Swinney said: “I was on the receiving end of information passed to me by the city council in good faith, I have to say principally from Tie, and it was absolute rubbish – total rubbish.”

He added: “The fact that Tie has, essentially, now faced its day of reckoning is an outcome which I think was too long in the coming.”

The revelations have prompted SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western Colin Keir to call for a full inquiry into what he called the “culture of mismanagement” that surrounded the project.

Commenting, Mr Keir said:

“The people of Edinburgh have had to deal with an unprecedented amount of frustration since the tram scheme began.  A culture of mismanagement by TIE is rapidly emerging.”

“Now is the time to get the project moving again but when progress is made, an inquiry into this whole debacle must begin.”

“TIE officials and the opposition parties who forced through this project against the wishes of Scottish Government minister will have to explain their actions to Edinburgh residents and business owners.”

Mr Swinney also admitted that the fledgling minority SNP government, who were against the trams, was finding its feet back in 2007 and he feared that Labour, the Tories and LibDems would unite in order to bring down the government had they not agreed to opposition demands to fund the project.

The project has been mired in controversy and chaos ever since and the SNP Government were forced to step in last month after the project came close to collapse.

The Scottish Government threatened to withhold payment after the council’s Labour and Tory opposition groups stunned the city by combining to force through a plan to end the line at Haymarket, a terminus two miles short of the planned stop at St Andrew’s Square in the city centre.  That vote was overturned at an emergency meeting when Labour reversed its stance.

Both Labour and the Tories subsequently backed down and voted to build the line to St Andrew Square at an increased cost of £776m.  With interest payments, that figure could eventually exceed £1bn.