Malcolm calls for an inquiry into recent management of the Trams Project
Edinburgh Airport (Drop -off Charges) Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I, too, congratulate Gavin Brown on securing the debate. I also commend the energy and determination that he showed over the summer in spearheading the campaign. Someone said that he was fiddling while Rome burns, but the fact that we face much bigger problems does not mean that we should disregard the issue that has arisen at Edinburgh airport.

The fundamental question that has been put is why Edinburgh should be different. None of the other BAA airports has such a charge. Also, as the motion reminded us, BAA failed to consult, in spite of the impression that was given in June that there would be consultation.

As other speakers have said, the primary aim of the charge - perhaps its sole aim - is to make money. If the intention is to deter drivers, a charge is certainly not the way to do it. As the motion says, public transport is not a viable option for many people. That includes some of the elderly and those with mobility difficulties who have been mentioned. I also recognise that there are particular problems for people in the Linlithgow constituency, as highlighted by Mary Mulligan.

However, it is appropriate to say that public transport will become a more viable option for a large number of people once the trams are up and running. That will deter many drivers more effectively than charging them for going to the airport. As Margaret Smith also reminded us, the trams will help BAA. I hope that the campaign in which Margaret Smith and Gavin Brown have been so energetically involved this summer will spill over into the wider campaign to get the trams up and running. I should say that, over the summer, I received far more letters, e-mails and other representations about that issue than I did about the airport issue. In saying that, in no way do I mean to show disrespect to the campaign.

It is not appropriate to speak in great detail about the trams on this occasion, but I will make one point about them.

I hope that we will unite across party divisions in the campaign to get the trams up and running as soon as possible, and I hope that we can allow our party-political differences on the issue to be left in the past. In due course, there will be an inquiry into all that has gone on. Some will want to blame the council, some the Scottish Government and some the people who voted for the decision in the first place. That will obviously go on for a considerable period of time, and eventually it will be the subject of an inquiry. However, we should unite to make sure that we get the trams up and running. No one can possibly believe that the failure of the trams project would in any way be in the interests of Edinburgh or Scotland. I hope that this campaign will spill over into that campaign but, for the time being, we must all resist the airport charge.
September 9th 2010, (Column 28497-8)