Edinburgh tram inquiry: Humza Yousaf called out at FMQs over delays into Edinburgh tram inquiry
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The inquiry was announced in 2014 by the then First Minister Alex Salmond, who promised it would be ‘swift and thorough’. He appointed former Lord Advocate Lord Hardie to chair it. But public hearings did not start until September 2017 and although they finished the following year the report has yet to be published. The inquiry said in April that the report had been sent to the printers and now says it hopes it will be published ‘before the autumn’.
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions. He said: "It’s now over nine weeks since the Edinburgh tram inquiry was sent to the printers, more than nine years after it was announced and three years since it stopped hearing evidence. It has cost Scottish taxpayers over £13 million, including the chair being paid over £1 million.
"I know the First Minister cannot today comment on the findings of that inquiry but can I ask the First Minster if the Scottish Government will agree to parliament debating the inquiry findings, when published, in government time? And what review will now be undertaken into the delivery of this inquiry, as it’s vital lessons are learned for future public inquiries, and what’s gone so wrong in delivering this one?”
Mr Yousaf reminded Mr Briggs it was an independent public inquiry. He said: “I am not able to interfere or intervene when it comes to the timescale of that public inquiry. All I would say is that when that trams inquiry is ready to be published there will certainly be no objection from the Scottish Government or from me as First Minister to get the public inquiry published as soon as possible. I think it should be published as soon as it is absolutely ready for it to be published. But it is so important that when it comes to that independent public inquiry, neither myself nor anybody in the Scottish Government is seen to interfere or intervene in any way whatsoever.”
Afterwards Mr Briggs said he would be pursuing the issue of an inquiry into the inquiry with Mr Yousaf. He said: "I’m going to write to him about the review of the inquiry because something has gone really wrong and the fact it has taken nine years, the fact it has cost this much money, that is where the government are responsible, they commission these and yes they shouldn’t ever interfere, but you can’t just leave them to take nine years and rack up this amount of money. Probably the parliament, cross-party, should look at this because I think people are genuinely angry now about the inquiry as well as what went on and want answers on both.”
Mr Briggs said he hoped the government would agree to a full debate. “Part of the inquiry is that their findings – and lessons to be learned – are properly discussed in public. Given the amount of money and time this inquiry has taken, it can’t just be dumped on a shelf, it has to be properly considered. With a great debate now over future tram lines, there is a lot of learning going to have to take place.”
Edinburgh transport convener Scott Arthur said the delays to the tram inquiry report were now ‘beyond a joke’. He said: ”How can it possibly take six months to publish a report which has taken nine years to write? Is it being copied by monks onto parchment? If Lord Hardie has completed his deliberations, the Scottish Government now needs to intervene and place this report online immediately. Edinburgh deserves to know the truth.”
A spokesperson for the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry said: “Lord Hardie’s final report remains with the publishers. Preparing a document of its size for publication is a complex and lengthy process. It is hoped it will be ready before the Autumn. Holidays are having no impact on timelines.”