Malcolm reminds Alex Salmond of the case for the Edinburgh Tram Scheme
Question to the First MInister on the Edinburgh Tram scheme Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab): To ask the First Minister what assessment the Scottish Executive has made of the consequences for the environment, economic development and traffic congestion of cancelling the Edinburgh tram scheme. (S3F-17) The First Minister (Alex Salmond): A full review will be presented to Parliament. The consequences will depend on the alternatives. The alternatives that this party favours are guided busways on much of the tram alignment between Edinburgh airport and Haymarket; incentives for the use of hybrid fuel buses, which would reduce emissions; incentives to improve through-ticketing; real-time information at all Edinburgh bus stops; completion of the planned park-and-ride sites around the city, which are proving increasingly successful; and further bus-priority measures on the routes that are to be served by those park-and-ride facilities.

We believe that those measures offer a real alternative to the current trams proposal. However, the undertaking that we gave to hold a financial review and to give a presentation to Parliament stands. I hope that, out of that informed discussion and debate, we can seek agreement across the Parliament.
Malcolm Chisholm:Given the First Minister's doubts about the tram scheme and his admiration for the economic policies of the Republic of Ireland, will he pay a visit to Dublin in the near future to see how the tram system there has, over a short period, reduced congestion, significantly promoted economic development and proved so popular that a major expansion is already under way? Does not he realise that the Edinburgh and Leith tram is the best option for the environment and for getting people out of their cars; that the scheme is essential for development of the waterfront in my constituency; and that it is being progressed through fixed-price contracts, under which the contractor bears the financial risk?

Nobody is a greater fan or user of buses than I am, but does not the First Minister know that Princes Street, with a current level of 320 buses per hour, is fast approaching the saturation level of 400 buses per hour, and that only an integrated bus and tram network can stop Edinburgh and Leith from grinding to a halt in the years to come?
The First Minister:I look forward to Malcolm Chisholm's trenchant views being expressed in the debate when we bring the financial consequences and appraisal to Parliament. It will be interesting to see whether his view on fixed-price contracts is justified by the financial analysis that is being called for and carried out now. As far as a visit to Dublin is concerned, I am delighted to tell Malcolm Chisholm that the likely continuing Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has invited me to do exactly that. I have accepted, and I promise Malcolm that I will look closely at the tram network when I am there. May 31st 2007, (Columns 320-1)