By Martin Kelly
An attack on the new Forth Replacement Crossing project by the Scottish Labour party has been described as a “major blunder” by their main opponents in a local by-election set for January.
The SNP has seized on a statement issued by Scottish Labour’s spokesman for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities in which he branded the Queensferry Crossing a “vanity project.”
In the statement, Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly says of the major infrastructure project, “from the start this has been a vanity project for the Scottish Government.”
However the Labour MSP’s remarks come only weeks before a crucial by-election in one of the constituencies that has benefited from jobs created by the project. The poll which will take place in Cowdenbeath on January 23rd follows the tragic death of Labour MSP Helen Eadie in November after being diagnosed with cancer.
Labour’s Cowdenbeath by-election candidate Alex Rowley has been challenged to disown the comments from Mr Kelly who has been campaigning with the Labour candidate.
The Queensferry Crossing is the largest capital project in Scotland with a budget range of £1.4-1.45 billion and is currently employing 874 people on the site. The bridge is due to open on schedule in 2016 and is projected to be £145 million under the original budget for the project.
Commenting, SNP candidate for the Cowdenbeath constituency Natalie McGarry said:
“I am absolutely astonished by these ridiculous comments from the Labour party.
“The Queensferry Crossing project is the biggest building project in Scotland and has given work to nearly 900 people in the area. It is already providing a real boost to the Fife economy and will achieve even more when it is completed.
“For Labour to attack the new crossing as a ‘vanity project’ can only be described as a major blunder.
“The SNP’s track record supporting commuters in Fife is second to none as shown by the Scottish Government’s abolition of tolls on the Firth and Tay Bridges immediately after being elected to office.
“Will Alex Rowley disown this attack from a senior member of his party or does he also believe that creating nearly 900 jobs in the Fife area is simply a ‘vanity project’?
“It shows a quite extraordinary lack of respect to Fife and to the hundreds of people working on the bridge, but speaks volumes about Labour’s attitude to the area.”
The comments from Mr Kelly criticising the project are the latest from the Scottish Labour party.
In October in an interview in Holyrood magazine, Scottish Labour MSP Elaine Murray 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.”
Murray also implied that the new crossing had been commissioned by the Scottish Government simply “to have something that they can show they’ve delivered”.
Labour’s attacks on the crossing are a U-turn from the party’s 2011 pre-election stance when it pledged to build a replacement crossing.
Labour’s 2011 Scottish manifesto stated: “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. We will deliver on our commitment to empower the public to choose the name of the new bridge.”