SCOTTISH Government Transport Minister Keith Brown couldn’t have been clearer: “We have no intention of being involved in further lines for trams.”
The message to Edinburgh City Council is that payment for any extension to Leith, or beyond, will have to come out of the council’s own pockets. For the cash-strapped administration, this means borrowing the money.
To be fair to the SNP administration, its position has been consistent all along. It doesn’t like trams. And it wasn’t keen on paying for them in the first place.
Perhaps, history has given the government the right to say: “Told you so.”
But Keith Brown’s response was in some ways surprising as public opinion is turning on Edinburgh’s trams. While some will never be convinced, many can’t wait to get on board. The sight of tram testing in the city centre has inspired thousands of conversations and pictures on social media. Excitement is in the air.
The ride from the airport is swift and smooth and gives commuters a great new public transport alternative, while also making the city more modern for tourists.
But for the tram to have a long-term future, it will have to be extended to Leith and beyond.
The lesson from other cities is that once the tram is running, other parts of the city will demand it.
Therefore Mr Brown’s unequivocal statement – two months before the first tram runs – that his party won’t fund anything in the future, could come back to haunt him.
Why not wait, see how things are working, and then make a decision, based on the new evidence?
The Capital has not even put forward a detailed business case for Leith yet.
Keith Brown is being consistent. But he is also premature in his reaction.
Yes, Edinburgh has made a mess of tram line one. But that doesn’t mean it was a bad idea.