Letters: It's time to go public with tram project funding facts

Is John Swinney telling the public the whole truth about ministerial involvement in the Edinburgh Trams?

At the recent SNP conference, he was at pains to re-emphasise that he and his party were against the project and that he would spend "not a penny more" on bailing it out.

However, financial statements assessed by Audit Scotland show the project is in clear breach of the conditions set down in the grant letter which forms the basis of the 500 million grant dispensed by the SNP Government via Transport Scotland.

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The audited account states: "The terms and conditions of the grant letter with Transport Scotland include a Conditions Precedent which, inter alia, states that the business plan for the tram for the full scope of Phase 1a must be delivered within a maximum capital cost of 545m. This condition was satisfied at the time of signing. However, as a consequence of the on-going dispute with the infrastructure consortium, the council is examining contingency planning options up to a capital cost of 600m. There are currently on-going discussions with the consortium to provide greater clarity which will impact on the project. In light of these circumstances, the council is continuing discussions with Transport Scotland to review the grant letter and the current conditions."

Translated into plain English, this means that by forecasting expenditure greater than the maximum of 545m and not building the whole of the project the council is in breach of the grant letter conditions.

These project difficulties have been known since June.

Why then did Mr Swinney knowingly allow Transport Scotland to continue to write cheques to a project that was known to be in breach of the very conditions he set down to protect the public purse?

It is now time to make public the grant letter, hitherto jealously guarded by Mr Swinney as being too confidential to disclose.

John R T Carson, Kirkliston Road, South Queensferry

Tightening belts at the Botanics

In response to your article 'Outrage as Botanics bosses reveal 5 admission plan' (News, November 8), charging admission is not so much a "plan", but something ministers may have to consider. It is their decision and, like us, they have always preferred free access.

We will need to further tighten our belt – so as a matter of good practice, there are a number of our core areas of business under discussion, including opening hours, the education and events programme, and yes, the possibility of revisiting the charging issue.

Our priority remains our staff. We will work to ensure the continued provision of an internationally recognised institution of scientific and horticultural excellence which is a place of learning, a cultural centre and a major tourist attraction.

I am also aware that the Botanics is held with a sense of affection by the countless local people who use it on a regular basis, and we will work hard to ensure that this remains the case for another 340 years.

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Professor Stephen Blackmore, Regius Keeper, Royal Botanic Garden

Thanks for a very warm welcome

AS first-time visitors to the UK and as senior citizens, our welcome to your city made us feel at home. The friendly manner extended to us by both old and young was wonderful.

Peter and Gwen Lang, Victor Harbor, South Australia

Capitals deserve better support

I AM a Nottingham Panthers fan who came up to Edinburgh to watch my team play the Edinburgh Capitals.

I was shocked at how few Capitals fans there were at the stadium.

I'm told that the Panthers fans outnumbered Capitals fans by two to one. Our side was full, yours barely half-full.

Edinburgh, you have a team that doesn't give up, and provides great entertainment for all the family. Please get behind them, they'll be virtually unstoppable with a crowd roaring them on!

A word of warning though – wrap up, it's freezing in there!

Sandi Stephenson, Nottingham