Holyrood Opposition Set to Shift Blame as Tram Costs Spiral

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It was the Holyrood Unionists pet project, forced through by them in 2007 despite opposition from the then fledgling SNP Government.

However, over three years later the Edinburgh Trams project looks set to become an albatross around the capital’s neck and the Labour and Conservative parties appear to be running for cover as costs on the project spiral out of control.


It was the Holyrood Unionists pet project, forced through by them in 2007 despite opposition from the then fledgling SNP Government.

However, over three years later the Edinburgh Trams project looks set to become an albatross around the capital’s neck and the Labour and Conservative parties appear to be running for cover as costs on the project spiral out of control.

As delays appear and costs escalate there are reports that the Unionists at Holyrood will seek to shift blame for the mess onto the party who actually opposed the project in the first place – the SNP.

Recent estimates have suggested the project will be delivered at least two years late and £200m over budget.  Official figures suggest that £341 million of the £500m allocated budget has already been spent, yet only 22% of the infrastructure is complete.

The signs that there will be moves to shift the blame onto the SNP emerged last week when Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm tabled the following question to the Scottish Parliament:
“to ask the Scottish Government what issues it and Transport Scotland raised with the City of Edinburgh Council before handing over each instalment of funding for the Edinburgh tram project”.

In an article in The Sunday Herald headlined: SNP under pressure to accept blame for spiralling tram costs – Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser is reported to have told the paper that an Audit Scotland investigation into Transport Scotland’s handling of the project finances will be announced “within the next few weeks”.

Mr Fraser explained that this would allow MSPs to compel Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson to appear before the committee.   The Herald quotes Murdo Fraser as saying: “Things are sufficiently serious with the tram project to justify a call for direct answers from the minister rather than to allow him to pass the buck to unaccountable civil servants,”

Transport Scotland is the agency that dealt with the project team and is in charge of making payments.  However, as a Government agency it offers a way for Unionists to launch an attack on the SNP, which appears to be what is about to happen.

Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm made clear the line of attack saying:

“Once the SNP had accepted the decision of parliament, they should have been managing the project. It seems to me, because they were not keen, they washed their hands of it.

“I am told that [Swinney] asked TS to look at it and they just didn’t want to. But that doesn’t let him off the hook. He is the person in charge. Transport Scotland is certainly not immune from blame but in our system of government the minister is responsible and any good minister will not try and hide behind his civil servants.”

The full Sunday Herald article can be read here:
http://www.heraldscotland.com/business/corporate-sme/snp-under-pressure-to-accept-blame-for-spiralling-tram-costs-1.1054411