Call to stop bridge work in row over foreign suppliers

An artist's impression of the new Forth bridge
An artist's impression of the new Forth bridge
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FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has been urged to halt the £1.6 billion Forth Replacement Crossing project amid a row over the decision to use steel from China and Europe.

The Community trade union, which represents the majority of Scottish steelworkers, claimed government agency Transport Scotland had been “disingenuous” when it said no Scottish firms had bid to supply the steel for the crossing.

The union said Tata Steel’s Dalzell steelworks in Motherwell had been part of a consortium initially involved in bidding for the tender.

Community general secretary Michael Leahy has written to Mr Salmond, calling for a halt to the project while a review of the procurement process is carried out.

In the letter, he said: “I was shocked to hear that no Scottish, or UK, steel would be used and I was confused to see the statement that ‘no Scottish firms bid’ to supply the steel.

“It seems clear that there has been an over-emphasis on cost at the expense of a focus on value to Scottish industries and communities.

“Our members at Tata Steel’s Dalzell site were shocked when they heard the news as they believe that their site has the capability and capacity to supply at least some of the steel the project requires.”

Mr Leahy said he had “seen too many politicians hide behind EU procurement rules in situations like this” and accused Transport Minister Keith Brown of joining the list.

The bridge will comprise 24,500 tonnes of steel from Shanghai, 8500 tonnes from Seville in Spain and 4200 tonnes from Gdansk in Poland.

Mr Leahy said he had spoken to senior executives at Tata Steel Europe who confirmed that the company had been indirectly involved in the tender process and that the Dalzell plant had the capability to supply some of the steel.

Labour said if it was the case a Scottish company was involved in bidding for the steel work but was turned down, contrary to claims from the Scottish Government, that was “a deeply concerning matter” and serious questions would need to be raised.

Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP John Park said: “Almost four years ago I warned that unless the procurement process was spot on, companies from Scotland and the rest of the UK would lose out on jobs and investment.

“The test for the consortium building the bridge is to ensure that Scottish workers get jobs, training and apprenticeship opportunities from this huge project. If they don’t, they can expect a serious backlash.”