Green MSPs today wrote to Sir Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, challenging his decision to allow SNP Ministers to sign contracts for the additional Forth Road Bridge during the traditional election purdah period. Constitutional convention prevents Ministers from taking decisions which are “significant and may be politically contentious”, and a motion in the name of Lib Dem MSP Margaret Smith challenging this decision has received support from Labour as well as Green MSPs.
The decision by SNP Ministers not to focus on repair of the existing bridge at a time of financial pressure is also unpopular – the only poll conducted on the issue saw 57% of Scots favouring the repair option, with just 34% backing a new bridge.
Top Green Candidate for Lothian, Alison Johnstone said:
“The routine and uncontroversial business of government has to continue, but this decision is anything but: it’s an extravagant, unnecessary and unpopular project being awarded by the SNP as an election stunt. Opposition to this timing is growing, with MSPs from Labour and the Lib Dems as well as Green all signing a motion urging a prudent delay until the new Parliament and Government are chosen.
“It’s no wonder opposition is growing, given the pressure on the Scottish budget and the fact that a full repair to the existing bridge would cost just £122m, less than a tenth of the value of all these contracts put together, even at the level announced today. Ministers and Transport Scotland also still have serious questions to answer about the total cost. Suddenly claiming VAT won’t be payable, wishing inflation away, and reducing costs of capital look like at best arbitrary and unsubstantiated ways to massage the cost down. At worst they look downright dishonest.
“My colleague, Patrick Harvie has written to the Permanent Secretary today, urging him to reconsider and instruct a delay instead, perhaps of no more than six weeks. He serves Scotland, and should not bend the rules to serve his here-today, gone-tomorrow political masters.”