Malcolm makes some robust comments on the new Executive's attitude to the Edinburgh tram scheme
Debate on Transport Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab): I was one of the members who very much welcomed the talk of new politics after the election, which was variously described by ministers as including the Parliament, co-operating with other parties, and deploying rational argument instead of mere assertion. We will see how the Government includes Parliament later on in the day, but there was precious little sign of rational argument against the tram and EARL in the statement today.

There were only some spurious points about Glasgow to Edinburgh rail electrification and a new Forth bridge, both of which Labour supports, but neither of which will involve any capital expenditure in this parliamentary session. I suppose that the Government tried out those new spurious arguments because its old spurious arguments were blown out of the water by the Audit Scotland report.

On trams, emphatically nothing in the report said that the cost of the trams was running out of control, as the transport minister rashly put it a week or two ago. Indeed, Audit Scotland said that there were sound arrangements in place to manage the project. Of course, Audit Scotland made different points on EARL but, in our amendment, we take on board the recommendations for governance arrangements that are proposed in the report.

In flapping about to find arguments about the trams - in the past few weeks in particular - the Government has continually confused EARL and the trams. It has also rolled up the costs of phases 1a and 1b of the trams project although it is phase 1a for which Parliament has given money and there is £45 million more than is required for the completion of that phase. It has also ignored Audit Scotland's evidence that there is a series of measures in place to keep the price of the trams project under control, including fixed-price contracts.

All that it has been able to refer to in the past week or two is the cost of utilities diversion, but there are significant contingencies in place for that. Indeed, nobody with more experience of digging up Edinburgh can be found than the company that has been awarded that part of the contract.

I am astonished that the Government is ignoring all the evidence and the long list of supporters of the trams that TRANSform Scotland sent to us in its briefing today. It is also ignoring the long list of countries that have developed trams—countries that, in other circumstances, the SNP has been pleased to praise. I mentioned the example of Dublin to the First Minister three or four weeks ago. I seem to remember that he said that he would examine the trams there, so I hope that he will do that quickly.

I remind members that the tram network in Dublin was built only two years ago and is now being developed. The trams there are becoming longer and more frequent, and new lines are being developed, some of them with the help of the private sector. Congestion in Dublin is down and economic development that is directly attributable to the trams is up.
June 27th 2007, (Columns 1156-7)