By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP say Labour is letting Scottish companies down by ignoring the benefits to them of the Forth Replacement Crossing – especially after a further 88 subcontracts were advertised.
Colin Keir, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western, has urged Labour to drop its negativity and encourage Scottish companies to apply for contracts for the project.
Mr Keir’s comments come after Labour leader Johann Lamont’s extraordinary line of questioning during First Minister’s Questions in Parliament last week.
Ms Lamont repeatedly asked First Minister Alex Salmond why the contract for steel for the bridge had been awarded to a company outside of Scotland, despite being told a number of times that there is no company in Scotland capable of producing the required material.
Ms Lamont asked: “Will the First Minister stand up for Scottish workers and instruct an immediate review of this disgraceful contract which will have huge consequences across our communities?”
Mr Salmond replied: “I’m not sure if Johann Lamont knows this but we don’t actually have manufacturing fabrication facilities for steel in Scotland, thanks to the degradation of past Westminster governments.”
Mr Salmond noted that approximately 80% of the contracts and subcontracts have been awarded to Scottish companies. 118 of the 155 subcontracts on the project have gone to firms in Scotland, while Scottish companies are benefit from 870 of the 1,041 supply orders.
The steel contract which has been subcontracted abroad represents approximately 5% to 10% of the total value of the main contract for the new bridge, which was awarded to the Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors consortium and is worth £790 million. Some £40m worth of steel contracts are understood to have been awarded to companies in Spain, Portugal and China.
Construction of the new bridge began last autumn, and the crossing is expected to be open for traffic in 2016. The total estimated cost range of delivering the project is £1.45 billion to £1.60 billion, a substantial reduction on the previous estimate of £1.7 billion to £2.3 billion. The new bridge is being built as the existing Forth Road Bridge is showing signs of deterioration.
According to Scottish transport minister Keith Brown, the project will support 1,200 Scottish jobs, will secure a further 3,000, and will provide 45 vocational training positions annually as well as 21 professional training places and 46 positions for long-term unemployed people.
SNP MSP Colin Keir, who repesents the Edinburgh Western constituency, site of the Lothian end of the bridge, said Labour should be encouraging Scottish firms to apply for the work instead of continuing their negative campaign of refusing to acknowledge the opportunities.
Mr Keir said: “The Labour party is completely ignoring the benefits that the FRC is bringing to Scottish companies.
“It’s typical of Labour to conveniently ignore the facts when it suits them, but by seeking to mislead Scottish companies about the potential opportunities available to them they are doing them a real disservice.
“Even at a time when 88 subcontracts have just been announced for the project, the Labour party continues its scaremongering campaign by saying Scottish firms are not gaining from it. Instead they should be actively encouraging them to apply.
“If the Scottish Government followed Labour’s way of doing things, they would be in breach of contract, liable to legal challenge and would subsequently put the progress on the FRC in jeopardy.
“The SNP Government is committed to ensuring Scottish firms continue to benefit from the FRC.
“In addition to the subcontracts already benefitting firms, 83.5 per cent of the total number of supply orders have been awarded on the Principal Contract to Scottish companies.
“The FRC is an absolutely essential project for Scotland’s sustainable economic growth and is already creating jobs for Scottish people.”