Glasgow: We bailed out the SNP and they axed our rail link in return

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MINISTERS have been accused by Glasgow City Council of not playing fair, after it revealed that it had plugged a government funding gap in the M74 project only to have the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl) unilaterally axed.

The council told The Scotsman it had brought forward 33 million of its contribution to the motorway extension to ensure the start of work last year was not delayed.

The Labour-run council said there had been widespread "genuine dismay" that, despite coming to the Scottish Government's rescue, SNP ministers had "frozen everyone out" in deciding to scrap Garl.

The 692m road project is seen as key to easing congestion on the M8 in Glasgow by providing a new direct route for through traffic. The council said the five-mile project would have been delayed if it had not brought forward funding to cover a government shortfall.

The council had been due to contribute only 8.2m last year, but paid its entire 41m share for the three-year scheme. South Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire councils, as co-funders, did likewise, paying their combined 11.7m contribution up front.

A Glasgow council spokesman said: "The Scottish Government was due to pay roughly 80.4m in year one. However, it evidently had a cashflow problem, which meant that cost was out of budget. This threatened, at the very least, to delay the project.

"We are very happy to have taken the lead on this solution, although it clearly put serious pressure on our capital spending power."

Council leader Steven Purcell said: "It was a price worth paying to ensure that an absolutely crucial project was not allowed to slip through our fingers. It showed, we thought, a level of trust between ourselves and the Scottish Government.

"With Garl, things couldn't have been more different. There is genuine dismay from every section of the community that ministers froze everyone out, while they did their best to kill the project off."

The Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency, which is in charge of both projects, said there was a "clear difference" in their funding.

A spokesman said the M74 project agreement "provided the flexibility between the partners to bring funding contributions forward in the way that was done". Garl was funded almost entirely by the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council "had no role" in its delivery. He added: "When the construction contract for M74 was let early in 2008, all the necessary land, business relocations and compensation were in place and construction of the road was able to start almost immediately."