By Bob Duncan
Johann Lamont must urgently confirm Labour’s support for the Forth Replacement Crossing, the SNP has said, after Labour’s Transport Spokeswoman said that building the new crossing was a mistake.
In an interview in Holyrood magazine, Elaine Murray MSP said that the major infrastructure project was “sucking in a great deal of money” and that “the case for a replacement was to a certain extent overblown.”
The comments have led to fears that the Scottish Labour party is preparing to ditch its commitment to the vital bridge replacement.
The new Forth Crossing, which is due to open in 2016, will cost between £1.47bn and £1.62bn – much less than the original estimate of £2.3bn. The figures cast doubt on Dr Murray’s statement about cost, as her party had originally supported the project at the higher estimate.
Murray also implied that the new crossing was a vanity project, saying that the Scottish Government were constructing it simply “to have something that they can show they’ve delivered”. However, Labour’s 2011 Scottish manifesto states: “We will deliver the new Forth Replacement Crossing. This is a vital project to safeguard an essential link in the country’s transport network and will be the largest infrastructure project in a generation.”
In the same interview, Dr Murray said the SNP since 2007 had not put “sufficient emphasis” on public transport and that her own party’s introduction of concessionary bus fares showed they were attempting to put public transport first when they were last in power.
However, Labour leader Johann Lamont has attacked those same concessionary fares, asserting in a pre-conference speech that they are “unaffordable” and “something for nothing”. Ms Lamont has announced the establishment of an in house commission to look at which of these universal benefits can be means tested or removed, and has made it clear that concessionary fares are a prime target.
SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western Colin Keir said:
“For Labour’s Transport Spokeswoman to demonstrate such ignorance about the biggest transport project in Scotland is quite frankly astonishing.
“Perhaps Dr Murray should come and speak to some of the people in my constituency and beyond, who rely on the Forth Bridge every day – maybe then she’ll understand the need to ensure that this vital artery in Scotland’s transport network stays intact.
“Labour have an explicit manifesto commitment to deliver the Forth Replacement Crossing – but it is clear that if they were in Government, Elaine Murray would be tearing this up and ditching the entire project.
“That means that the hundreds of firms benefiting from subcontracts and supply orders – and the more than twelve hundred jobs supported by the construction – would have been lost.
“The SNP in Government committed to this bridge, carried out an excellent procurement process, and the new crossing is now being delivered on time and on budget.
“As we have seen with their Cuts Commission, Labour know only the price of everything, and the value of nothing. Elaine Murray’s comments are just the latest example showing how people just can’t trust a word they say any more.”