THE Scottish Government was today facing questions over its failure to act quickly on Edinburgh’s trams fiasco, after it emerged it has employed a full-time project manager all along.
Transport Minister Keith Brown confirmed that despite the Scottish Government removing Transport Scotland from the board overseeing the project, the government agency retained an official working solely on the trams.
Transport Scotland said project manager John Ramsay’s job was concerned with making payments to the council.
Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said the handing over of millions of pounds to the council was intrinsically linked to the progress of the project.
She said: “This guy was right in he middle of everything for the entire time. He reported to the Scottish Government, but for four years the Scottish Government put its fingers in its ears.”
The then-minority SNP government opposed the tram project in 2007 but was forced to fund it to the tune of £500 million after the other parties voted together to keep the project going.
Soon afterwards, Transport Scotland was taken off the board of the council’s trams firm TIE.
In a parliamentary answer, responding to a written question from Ms Dugdale, Mr Brown said Transport Scotland had had one full-time official working on the trams from May 2008 – when the contract for the scheme was signed – until September this year, when the government stepped in to take control of the project.
Since then Transport Scotland has had four full-time staff working on it.
In another answer, Mr Brown said ministers had been kept appraised of the project’s progress “on an ongoing basis” since May 2008, but he claimed it was only in March 2010 that Finance Secretary John Swinney was first made aware that the tram project would not meet its planned opening date of early 2011.
As early as autumn 2008, it was being reported the completion date for the trams had slipped to July 2011 and in February 2009 there was speculation the project might not be finished until November 2012. The completion date is now summer 2014.
Ms Dugdale said: “There was someone employed by Transport Scotland the whole time, focused on the trams.
“It was his job to tell the government what was going on. It’s incredible the Scottish Government did not realise until March 2010 that the trams were not going to be on the streets the following January.
“Was John Swinney the last person on earth to be told?”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “Transport Scotland had one member of staff whose duties were to manage the financial administration of the grant payments provided to Edinburgh City Council.
“This was necessary as a result of parliament outvoting the then minority government in 2007 by voting to approve government funding for the trams – a decision ministers believe was deeply mistaken.”
All systems go . . for just 500 metres
THE trams have at last begun moving on the city’s streets, but they only travel 500 metres.
Images released today show the progress of the trams along the test track outside the Gogar depot.
The trams are now being tested at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour on the track, which will become part of the tram route when it is completed in 2014.