Jenny Dawe says split has sent Edinburgh Trams scheme further off the rails

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CITY leader Jenny Dawe has admitted for the first time that the split in the coalition running the Capital has harmed the tram project - after her deputy described the scheme as "a load of bo*****s".

• Jenny Dawe

Councillor Dawe made the comments during a marathon council meeting, where her Liberal Democrat group also agreed to pass a motion criticising the way their coalition with the SNP had handled the project.

Councillors also agreed to Tory demands for a specialist public transport consultancy firm to be brought in to review the whole business case - which states that a shortened line can be delivered from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew Square within the 545 million budget originally set aside for the whole route out to Newhaven.

In a debate on the troubled project that started at 7pm and followed nine hours of discussion of privatisation, outsourcing, budgets, Gaelic education and pay disputes, Cllr Dawe said: "It has done the tram project no favours that the two coalition partners are opposed.

"If all parties were supportive of a tram we would be in a better position today. But that is not the situation we are in."

Her comments, one of her most vocal attacks on her SNP coalition partners since they joined forces in 2007, followed an outspoken critique of the business case behind the project by deputy leader Steve Cardownie. He said: "The SNP position when looking at the final business case and refreshed business case can be summed up by saying it was a load of bo*****s then and it is a load of bo*****s now." He said there was no evidence to back up the claim in the refreshed business case that suggests that 545m will be enough to complete the shortened line from the airport to the city centre.

He hit out at the other political groups in Edinburgh that passed the original business case. He said: "That business case was flawed but people were so desperate to get 545m from the Scottish Government that they ignored the warnings and that led us to where we are today."

SNP councillors had also expressed concerns about the way Leith Walk traders had been treated and called for the council to make special arrangements in order to fully compensate the damage tram work has had on their business.

However, their amendment was defeated by a joint Labour/Conservative amendment that won the support of the Lib Dems and Greens.

It criticised the failure of the administration to provide detailed information on the line from the airport to the foot of Leith Walk; the airport to Ocean Terminal and the airport to Newhaven, as pledged at a meeting in June.

It called for more detailed information on the programme, cost and contractual implications of the three stages, while criticising "the failure of the Lib Dem/SNP administration in not bringing forward these earlier agreed acts of council".

Earlier, Cllr Dawe had said she held a meeting with Bilfinger Berger - the German construction giant heading the consortium building the tram line that remains locked in dispute with the council - and said she had been encouraged by their "new approach to communication".