£2bn spend on Forth Road Bridge 'will starve education and health'

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GOING ahead with the new Forth Road Bridge will starve education, health and local government of much-needed investment, critics warned today.

• An artist's impression of the new Forth crossing

The ForthRight Alliance, a coalition of groups opposed to the building of the new bridge, criticised the Scottish Government for its insistence that the 2 billion project - to be funded out of normal budgets - would go ahead despite massive cuts in capital spending.

Finance Secretary John Swinney, who will set out details of Scottish spending plans next month, promised within hours of Wednesday's UK spending review that the new Forth crossing would be built even though Scotland's capital budget is to be cut by 25 per cent next year.

But the ForthRight Alliance branded the new bridge "unaffordable, unsustainable and unpopular" and argued the existing crossing should be repaired so that capital spending on education, health and local government did not suffer disproportionate cuts.

Lawrence Marshall, chair of the ForthRight Alliance and former convener of the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, said some 1369 billion was due to be spent on the new bridge between 2011/12 and 2014/15, while Chancellor George Osborne's spending review had revealed a reduction in the annual available Scottish capital budget from the current 3.4bn to 2.3bn in 2014/15.

Mr Marshall called for a final decision on a new bridge to be postponed until the results of cable drying on the existing bridge were better known in a year or so.

He added: "By the end of the next parliament, capital expenditure on this unnecessary project will amount to more than three times that on education throughout Scotland and almost three-quarters that spent on either health or local government."

He quoted a public opinion poll published in November last year which found 57 per cent of Scots were in favour of fixing the existing bridge with only 34 per cent supporting the Scottish Government's view that an additional bridge is required.