Alex Salmond was personally warned eight years ago by senior industry figures about structural concerns over the Forth Road Bridge, it has been claimed.
Former Labour MP Sir Tam Dalyell, who was president of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) at the time, said the then First Minister was urged to ensure “constant inspections” were undertaken on the bridge.
The former West Lothian MP has slammed “Holyrood politicians” over the maintenance failings which brought about the closure of the bridge, insisting that the focus on the referendum in recent years has seen issues like transport being neglected.
Holyrood’s infrastructure committee is poised to announce details of an inquiry into the closure today which has been in place for the past week and a half, prompting widespread disruption for thousands of commuters and businesses.
In a letter to the Scotsman, Mr Dalyell says that the board meeting of the SCDI in 2007 heard a detailed presentation from Alastair Andrew, board manager and bridgemaster, Forth Estuary Transport Authority, on the current state of the bridge.
Mr Dalyell states: “In response to questions from my colleague board members, Brendan Dick of BT and Professor Bill Stevely CBE, vice-chancellor of Robert Gordon University (1997-2005), Mr Andrew memorably insisted, “The Forth bridge is no stronger than its weakest link.’
“The minute records: `Tam Dalyell suggested that the SCDI ask to meet the First Minister at an early stage to discuss SCDI priorities. This was endorsed by other board members.’
“Subsequently, we met the First Minister [Alex Salmond] and I recollect that Alan Wilson, OBE, then chief executive of SCDI, regurgitated Alastair Andrew’s concerns, in particular that there should be constant inspection, to the First Minister and his senior officials.”
Sir Tam said that as West Lothian MP he felt a “responsibility” towards the upkeep of the bridge and slams the role of Scotland’s devolved Government in allowing it to fall into disrepair.
“I am in a position to assert that it is inconceivable that any Secretary of State for Scotland, Tory or Labour, from Michael Noble or Willie Ross onwards until responsibility was devolved to Holyrood would have countenanced the ditching of plans to strengthen part of the bridge, were it deemed advisable,” he adds.
“Attempts to shove the blame on officials of Transport Scotland, who advised a strengthening programme, only to have their advice accepted, and then immediately overturned, is contemptible.
“Shame on Holyrood politicians. The Scottish Parliament has served Scotland ill. Amid all the blethering about more powers, and vanity projects geared principally to the referendum, they have taken their eye of the ball.”