Leader: Powerhouse no more

ONE of the reasons why a new road bridge over the River Forth is a priority of the Scottish Government – apart from the obvious and rather compelling one that the existing road bridge has corrosion difficulties – is that such a large engineering undertaking is capable of injecting massive amounts of money into the Scottish economy at a time when growth is faltering and investment is scarce.

his theory does, however, depend on much of the work generated by the project going to Scottish firms. As we reveal today, the contract for concrete is unlikely to go to the East Lothian firm that was bidding for it. This news follows reports that steel for the bridge will largely be sourced from China.

European Union competition rules rightly make it difficult for states to be overly protectionist, preventing them from unfairly favouring home-grown firms. That is what the single market is all about, and ultimately it ensures the cost of such projects is less all round. Of course, the on-site construction of the Forth bridge will provide large numbers of jobs for Scots and work for Scottish firms. But the loss of key contracts to overseas firms perhaps serves to illustrate how far Scotland has fallen from being the engineering powerhouse of the empire and the workshop of the world.