EDINBURGH Western Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said he was told as long ago as January that the Queensferry Crossing was running behind schedule.
He made the claim during First Minister’s Questions as he challenged Nicola Sturgeon over the Scottish Government’s insistence that it found out only last week that bad weather meant the £1.35 billion bridge across the Forth would not be completed by the end of the year as scheduled.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Many people will find it hard to understand why 25 days lost to adverse weather can lead to a five-month delay in opening the crossing.
“It has been an open secret in my constituency that the delay was inevitable. I learned in January that the facility in Rosyth that makes concrete road decks did not have capacity to meet the target.
“Does the First Minister really believe that parliament and my constituents believe that the first that ministers knew of the delay was just after the election and that they knew nothing about the problem with the road decks?”
Ms Sturgeon said if he had evidence that ministers knew about the delay he should bring it forward. And she revealed she had met with the contractors this week to discuss the bridge.
She said: “Ministers were informed on May 26 that the FCBC (Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors) were looking at weather impacts. On June 1, the revised programme was ratified by the FCBC board. Since then, ministers have been making sure that Transport Scotland were subjecting that revised programme to rigorous scrutiny.
“I met with contractors on Tuesday to satisfy myself that everything possible was being done to accelerate progress.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton later said he was determined to find out what was known and when.
He said: “This is a complex operation and problems are always a possibility. But throughout it all the SNP have insisted the bridge was on time and on budget where there was clear evidence that deadlines were slipping.”
He said there had been media stories as far back as December last year that construction was months behind schedule.
“Are the SNP expecting us to believe that they had heard nothing about all this before now? People in Edinburgh and Fife deserve full transparency.”