Repairs to the Forth Road Bridge which could have averted its closure were not shelved by lack of money, transport minister Derek Mackay told MSPs today.
He said bridge officials had put off the work in 2011 because they did not think it was safety critical and it would have caused major traffic disruption.
The minister also told the Scottish Parliament’s infrastructure committee that the work was to fix problems with a different part of the carriageway’s support structure, and not the fault that shut the bridge, which had been unknown at the time.
The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta), which operated the bridge until last year, had estimated the project would cost £10-15m.
However, Mr Mackay said Feta had decided against going ahead with detailed preparations for the work, costing around £200,000, which it had the money to fund.
He said Feta decided to upgrade sections of the support structure, or truss end link, rather than replace the whole thing.
Mr Mackay said its concern had been over a weld point at the top rather, than the fault that was discovered in December, which was at the bottom.
The minister said if Feta had appointed consultants for a more detailed examination of the problem, the experts might have questioned why replacement of the whole assembly was planned when the known problem was only at one point.
Mr Mackay said: “The truss end link damage could not have been foreseen.
“Funding for safety critical work was never refused by the Scottish Government.
“If any critical repairs had been required, they would have ben funded.”
Asked by Labour transport spokesman David Stewart about a claim that ministers had refused a funding request from then bridgemaster Barry Colford, he said: “That is not correct”.
Mr Mackay said: “Mr Colford also said the fault was unforeseen and unforeseeable.
“He was not proposing to fix something that had been identified.”
Mr Mackay added that ministers had provided extra cash to Feta when required for other repairs.
This included £2 million for replacing cable band bolts on the bridge’s main support cable.
The crossing fully re-opened last Saturday after being shut for nearly three weeks in December, with lorries allowed restricted access from earlier this month.