Edinburgh council’s SNP group has announced it will join with its LibDem council partners in order to block the heavily criticised tram route proposed Labour.
The news follows the intervention yesterday by the Scottish government who insisted that they would withhold any further payments for the controversial project unless the route went all the way to Edinburgh’s city centre.
Speaking after the announcement the SNP group leader Steve Cardownie defended the SNP’s decision to back the St Andrew’s route insisting that the alternative would have meant a £161 million loss to the city budget.
The news will be a blow to the Labour and Tory groups who had argued that the best plan was to terminate the route at Haymarket.
There was outrage last week when the Labour proposal to terminate at Haymarket was forced through with the help of the Tories. Labour’s proposal would have led to the trams stopping before reaching the city centre, with a year on year operating loss of over £4 million.
The Labour councillor who proposed the Haymarket plan, Lesley Hinds, admitted to being “shocked” when her proposal won the vote. Ms Hinds claimed that she didn’t expect any of the other parties to back her proposal.
Mr Cardownie said he too was surprised by the Labour proposal last week and thought it laughable. The SNP group leader conceded that his party’s attempt at cancelling the project or forcing a referendum had failed and they were now faced with only two options.
He said Labour and the Tories had visited “a cruel joke” upon the people of Edinburgh and pledged to prevent it happening again when another vote is held on Friday.
Several BBC Scotland reporters have accused the SNP group of a U-turn. Reporting Scotland reporter Gavin Walker claimed that the SNP decision was a further blow to the reputation of councillors behind the project.
Responding, Mr Cardownie said: “Given that we can’t now call for cancellation then we have to make up our mind on behalf of the people of this city what is the best option for this city, we believe we have to at least bring this tram into the city centre.”
Mr Cardownie claimed that no-one in their right mind would have supported the tramline terminating short of the city centre and vowed to prevent Labour and the Tories from doing so: “That is why we can’t allow this to happen again. We can’t run the risk that these two groups will join forces on Friday and reaffirm the original decision, which defies description.”
Business leaders in the capital have welcomed the announcement.