Politicians should apologise over Edinburgh Trams says MSP

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An SNP MSP has called for Edinburgh councillors who voted to go ahead with the trams project to apologise to the people of Edinburgh as costs threatened to escalate and the chaos brought to the city centre showed no signs of ending.

Lothians MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville renewed her criticism of what she termed a ‘vanity project’ as new papers revealed council spending on the project could reach £100 million, more than double the original council burden….


An SNP MSP has called for Edinburgh councillors who voted to go ahead with the trams project to apologise to the people of Edinburgh as costs threatened to escalate and the chaos brought to the city centre showed no signs of ending.

Lothians MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville renewed her criticism of what she termed a ‘vanity project’ as new papers revealed council spending on the project could reach £100 million, more than double the original council burden.

The council had originally pledged £45 million towards costs, however to date it has raised only £16.4 million leading to doubts over the authorities ability to raise the expected £84 million balance.

Ms Somerville rejected what she described as ‘spin’ by Transport Convenor Councillor Gordon MacKenzie saying:
“Even with all the spin being put on the figures by TIE, these new council papers paint a very bleak picture.  On the one hand TIE is busy drawing up plans to spend at least another £55 million on the project, and yet so far the council has only managed to raise less than half of its original contribution of £45 million.  How will this affect our already stretched public services?  Will higher developer contributions be sought, or are council tax or bus prices going to be affected? I shudder to think what we could have done for education or housing if this money hadn’t been wasted on this great white elephant. 

“Every Lib Dem, Labour, Conservative and Green councillor and MSP who foisted the trams on the city should apologise for the horrendous mistake they made voting this project through. 

“This report does not provide any clarity.  When will trams actually start running? How much of the tram line will initially be built? The report leaves wide open the prospect that in the short term we’ll get a tram line running only from the airport to Haymarket. Does that mean people in Leith and elsewhere have endured chaos for nothing? Will business there have their developer contributions returned? 

“In short, this paper does not provide councillors with the full facts.  That’s why I am continuing to press for the Scottish Parliament’s Transport Committee to investigate.  It was Labour, Lib Dems and Tories who pushed this project through – it’s about time they contributed towards clearing up the mess”.

The Edinburgh trams project was forced through parliament after Unionist parties joined together to out vote the then fledgling SNP government who had opposed the £1/2 billion spend.  At the time it was seen as a major victory for the Unionists.

However the subsequent cuts to the Scottish budget by Labour and the collapse of the UK’s economy, meaning further cuts, have led to some former supporters to call for the project to be scrapped.

Independent MSP Margo Macdonald recently called for the project to be halted saying:
“Because of the economic downturn, lots of big projects are being closed down.

“I think we wouldn’t lose as much face as was once feared if we had to say that we have spent too much on the trams and we will have too much to spend in the future before they would make any money for us.
 
“I think we might conceivably see the project come to an end.”

Since the tram works began, the number of people in Princes Street has dropped dramatically. A survey by the Federation of Small Businesses in 2008 showed the average business affected by the tram works had lost almost £24,500 between January 27 and February 14 that year. In Edinburgh, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong and have not been helped by major disputes over the contract between the council and the main contractor.