A MULTI-million pound saving on the new Forth crossing should be used to invest in council projects, an MSP has said.
The call from Sarah Boyack comes after it was revealed that the final cost of the Queensferry Crossing is set to be £50 million lower than estimated last year.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed that the budget for the bridge – due to open to traffic by the end of 2016 – was now between £1.35 billion and £1.4bn. It has been revised down from the previous range of £1.4bn to £1.45bn.
Ms Boyack, Labour MSP for the Lothians, said local governments should benefit from the saving.
“I know from my work as shadow local government spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament that our councils across Scotland are in a financial straight jacket because of the SNP’s underfunding of local government,” she said.
“In Edinburgh alone we’ve just heard last week that it would cost the Capital £260m to bring all it’s roads up to standard, and while the council has plugged a funding gap to complete the second phase of the Water of Leith flood prevention scheme, the third phase has been mothballed due to lack of money.”
Yesterday’s announcement by Ms Sturgeon brings the total budget saving since the project started in 2011 to around £195 million.
Ms Sturgeon said the extra cash would provide a welcome boost to the public purse.
She said: “This is a massive construction project and it’s on time and under budget. At this stage, I think we should be very pleased with progress. Public money is tight these days, so every penny, every pound that we can save from a big project like this to allow to be redirected elsewhere is hugely important and hugely positive.”
She added she had “no doubt” the new bridge would prove to be as iconic as its predecessors. “This will be a really iconic, symbolic and significant landmark in the country.”
“I think it’s something that people should feel very proud of and very pleased in terms of the progress being made.”
Construction chiefs said the budget savings had been achieved through successful management of the project and favourable market conditions.
Carlo Germani, project director at the Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors, said: “The first thing is that we put in a competitive bid. But there is very good cooperation, and there haven’t really been any significant delays or anything that would have contributed to additional costs.”
Mr Germani insisted Scotland’s wild weather had also been taken into consideration by planners working to make the bridge operational in two years’ time – but admitted high winds could cause delays over the winter months.
He added that the bridge’s distinctive structure was set to take shape by April next year, once its supporting towers have been built to the correct height.