Gina Davidson: Never too late for a public inquiry

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AND now, the end is near, and so we face the very first running of the trams with passengers. Two days folks.

In 48 hours you – yes, you and you, even you – could have your rear-end parked on a tram seat and be whizzed back and forth between York Place and Edinburgh Airport (though I’d suggest not going to the end of the line and alighting at Ingliston unless you really want to pay £8 for the privilege of seeing the arrivals hall).

It’s hard to believe that as of Saturday – 1162 days later than promised – we can no longer moan that the tram isn’t yet going anywhere. We’ve only had eight years to do it, but no doubt we’ll find something else to fill the void.

Already there are suggestions, hints, potentials being considered, that extending the tram network to the south side of Edinburgh could be a good thing. Indeed Councillor Frank Ross, the city’s economic development leader, has said such an extension is a “no brainer” – a phrase used perhaps too often about the people who’ve been in charge of the mismanagement of the scheme.

And let’s not forget that there has also been talk to get it running at least to the foot of Leith Walk as much of the work has already been completed.

All of which, I believe, will ultimately be great for Edinburgh. But with two days to go where is the big announcement that we’re all waiting for? When will the public inquiry into how the tram project crashed so spectacularly begin?

Now I know I’ve raised this matter a number of times before, and yes there are probably bigger problems taking up the Scottish Government’s time at the moment, yet a public inquiry is in its gift, and it needs to say when – not if – it’s going to start.

The last major publicly funded project that went so badly off track was the building of the Scottish Parliament, and it was only through a year-long inquiry that answers to the question of how a £40m project, which was then capped at £195m but ended up costing £430m were forthcoming.

In case you’ve forgotten it was due to over-ambitious, or under-estimation of the project in the first place, no proper evaluation of the risks of the contract drawn up to have the work done and ultimately a lack of experience among the civil service staff who were supervising the project.

The same could well be said of the trams. Councillors on the board of TIE – the company set up to get the scheme completed – had no expertise of such a huge construction project and couldn’t question the details they were being fed, it seems likely that the contracts were at fault somewhere along the line perhaps again through a lack of legal expertise, then there was the party politics and whether or not Transport Scotland carried out its job properly.

Given the fact that it withdrew from TIE board meetings yet continued to hand over money despite not knowing what was going on – even when work had ground to a halt – questions have to be asked about just what Transport Scotland thought it was doing.

I’ve said before that the public won’t allow the covering of the tracks when it comes to this issue, and that the public inquiry needs to go right back to the beginning to when TIE was formed. Nothing else will satisfy the demand to know just how and why this all went so badly wrong.

There is no chance – no matter how much Cllr Ross believes lessons have been learned and how much cleverer the council would do things a second time round – that the Edinburgh public will countenance any more tram works until questions have been answered.

A touch of hope

THERE are always people who you meet or speak to in this job who fill you with hope for the human race. This week I spoke to parents who for a month every summer, give a summer holiday to a child from Belarus, a child affected by the ongoing fall-out of the Chernobyl disaster. Their delight in helping these kids is, quite simply, wonderful.

Marathon times are the trophy

I HAVE never run a marathon, never will, but I am always in awe of those who do. So while I don’t know the pain of completing 26.2 miles – particularly sore I’d imagine is the section along a wind-blown Porty promenade – what I do know is that if I were one of them, I’d like my finishing time emblazoned on the worldwide web for all to see. A medal just isn’t enough.

The organisers GSi Events got it badly wrong by only publishing the times of the first three runners for each category – especially as it will affect some runners’ ability to prove themselves for entry to other marathons. This error needs to be fixed – in sprint time.

Now women are responsible for immigration

DAVID Coburn, our new Ukip MEP (and thanks to the 10,000 or so in Edinburgh who decided to place their x in that box, no really, thanks you’ve given Frank Boyle a whole new area to mine for his cartoons) has certainly set about proving his credentials for his party membership.

While he hasn’t referred to women as “sluts” or suggested they need to clean behind their fridges like one of his fellow Ukipers, well not yet anyway – not had a chance to vote against equal pay in the European Parliament – he has instead suggested we should lie back and think of Scotland.

Ask not what your country can do for you women – but what you can do for your country. That’s right, get pro-creating. That will solve the need for immigration into Scotland.