​Swinney’s sorry trams role - John McLellan

​He probably won’t remember the brief conversation, but shortly after the SNP took over in government, I bumped into John Swinney across the road from the Evening News’s Holyrood Road headquarters.

​It was at the height of the wrangle over the new Portobello High School and the plan to build it on parkland, and I recommended that the best thing his party could do in Edinburgh at the time was to get the school built.

“Ah, but you’ve spent your money on trams,” he answered, and I suspect he was only half joking.

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The tram project put the SNP in a difficult position, with the council group and national party both campaigning for its abandonment in the 2007 elections, and then both forming administrations which stuck with it, but without any enthusiasm, as Mr Swinney’s comment suggested.

It’s hard to accept the SNP’s aggressive reaction to Lord Hardie’s criticism of Mr Swinney’s role in the debacle, because it’s been understood for years that his decision to withdraw Transport Scotland’s involvement was a major factor in the project’s near collapse.

Having bowed to political reality of a likely defeat in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Swinney should have honoured the decision and ensured Transport Scotland officials remained involved, but what looks like a spiteful instruction benefitted no-one, least of all taxpayers.

As local Nationalists crow about three miles of track to Newhaven costing over £207m, they should reflect on their party’s role in the preceding debacle and those who lost their livelihoods in the process.



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