New Forth Crossing Referred to Audit Scotland

A joint letter to the Auditor General for Scotland, sent today, has called on Audit Scotland to conduct an urgent investigation into the background to the additional Forth Bridge and the alternatives to it before any contracts are let, and to advise Ministers on the timing for and nature of any such contracts so that the public interest can be properly protected.

The following have signed the letter:

  • Richard Dixon, WWF Scotland
  • Keith Geddes, former member of the Accounts Commission (2002-2008)
  • Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party
  • Colin Howden, Director, Transform Scotland
  • Lawrence Marshall, former Convener of the Forth Estuary Transport Authority
  • Ross Martin, Policy Director, Centre for Scottish Public Policy
  • Duncan McLaren, Friends of the Earth Scotland

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“This legislation will give Ministers the power to sign contracts for a new Forth Bridge, the largest public sector contract ever managed by Scottish Ministers, but it does not require them to do so. Before they make a final decision it’s essential that Audit Scotland does a full investigation into the alternatives and contractual risks associated with this project. SNP Ministers cannot simply wade in and spend more than £2bn without any proper independent consideration of the alternatives.

“In 2008 a report for the Forth Estuary Transport Authority showed that the existing bridge could be repaired for a maximum cost of £122m, a saving of more than £2bn just as budgets are being squeezed hard. We are therefore today calling on the Auditor General for Scotland to use his expertise and help make sure Scotland isn’t blundering into the biggest mistake of devolution.”

Keith Geddes said:

“In recent years Scotland has had a legacy of capital projects which have suffered from inadequate forward planning. The new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, the Scottish Parliament project and of course the now infamous Edinburgh Tram project are prime examples of projects that have not only increased the burden on the taxpayer but have put question marks over Scotland’s ability to deliver major capital projects.

“Given that we are considering replacing a bridge that is less than fifty years old and doing so at a time when capital budgets are so limited, it is only right and proper that all precautions are taken to ensure the taxpayer secures value for money.”

(Thanks to Shelter Scotland for use of the brilliant image!)