‘Money-sucking’ Forth bridge claim sparks row

Work on the Forth Replacement Crossing at South Queensferry
Work on the Forth Replacement Crossing at South Queensferry
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LABOUR’S transport spokeswoman at Holyrood has caused a storm by voicing doubts over whether the new £1.5 billion Forth road bridge is necessary.

Elaine Murray said the new crossing was “sucking in a great deal of money” and suggested other alternatives should have been explored.

Elaine Murray

Elaine Murray

Labour voted with the SNP government in favour of the project when it was approved by MSPs in May 2010. Only the Greens opposed it.

Dr Murray came under fire today from the Nationalists for her comments in a magazine interview.

Edinburgh Western SNP MSP Colin Keir said: “For Labour’s transport spokeswoman to demonstrate such ignorance about the biggest transport project in Scotland is quite frankly astonishing.

“Perhaps Dr Murray should come and speak to some of the people in my constituency and beyond, who rely on the Forth bridge every day. Maybe then she’ll understand the need to ensure that this vital artery in Scotland’s transport network stays intact.”

Concerns were voiced about the effect the new bridge would have in taking money away from other projects.

In her interview with Holyrood magazine, Dr Murray said: “Our position was that we supported that at the time. I have to say, personally, I do wonder whether we were right. I wonder whether there were other alternatives that could have been explored which wouldn’t have been as 
expensive.

“Looking back, perhaps the Greens had a point. I sometimes think that the case for replacement was to a certain extent overblown.”

Dr Murray said she was not speaking on behalf of all her colleagues, but said: “I think that [Green leader] Patrick Harvie is right, there may have been other alternatives that should have been explored.”

Lothians Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “It is clearly the case that more affordable options were available. Fixing the existing bridge was costed at £122 million at most; still less than a tenth of what’s being blown on the additional bridge.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Elaine Murray made clear her comments were her personal opinion only.”