Readers' Letter: My 'tramsphobic' tendencies borne out by Hardie inquiry

I will admit it – I am “tramsphobic”. I have been writing to your esteemed publication for many years on this subject and you have been kind enough to print several of my lettersnote-0.

The trams inquiry has followed on in the great tradition of anything involving that particular vehicle’s name, in being both late and massively over-budget. However for once such an inquisition has proven to be both worth waiting for and possibly (in amusement value at least) worth the cost.

Surprisingly, it has put the blame on the people who were actually guilty. The Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council. The virtue-signalling politicians have been brought to book. Firstly as an ecologically-friendly project making travel from two of the largest polluters in the city, the airport and the harbour, easier was always questionable. As there was already a first-class bus service doing this job, why? How many businesses closed due to the trams construction? How many millions of tons of CO2 and other pollutants were poured into the atmosphere during its leisurely construction?

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Also the inquiry did not have in its remit either the fact that last year the trams lost £17m and despite all of this the madness continued. The line was extended. I firmly believe this will lead to losses being extended too. Not that the chief executive receiving £200,000-plus a year will bother too much. Neither did John Swinney. Watching him claiming it wasnae me it was that other laddie over there (Edinburgh City Council) was hilarious. Although compared to his Named Person’s Act the trams are a resounding success. Please remind me what do rats do on a sinking ship?

The Edinbinburgh Tram Depot at Gogar. Lord Hardie released his report into the construction of the original line this week (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)The Edinbinburgh Tram Depot at Gogar. Lord Hardie released his report into the construction of the original line this week (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
The Edinbinburgh Tram Depot at Gogar. Lord Hardie released his report into the construction of the original line this week (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

My family maintain that my tramsphobic tendencies hark back to 25 November, 1931 when my grandmother Etta Lewis aged 55 was run down by an Edinburgh tram and died three days later from her injuries. Unlike the cyclists of today no compensation was available to her family. I remember my family celebrating when they thought they had seen the end of them in 1956. But we will be told that all will be well because “lessons will be learnt, going forward etc, etc”. No they won’t – as my grandma proves they never are.

​Howard Lewis, Edinburgh

Blame game

Some of the reporting on the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry has ignored relevant factors and opposition politicians are trying to blame the SNP – whose minority government was opposed to the tram project on grounds of cost – that was forced into diverting £500 million of their transport budget for dualling the A9 into the tram project.

The inquiry rightly puts the bulk of the blame on to TIE and highly paid council officials. On 25 October 2007, an Edinburgh City Council press release stated that Edinburgh’s tram network received backing from the majority of city councillors today when they voted to approve TIE Ltd’s final business case – 46 councillors voted in favour of the recommendations but all 12 SNP councillors voted against.

The original flawed contract for the tram project was signed when a Labour/Lib Dem coalition was in power at both Holyrood and in the City Chambers. They set up Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE) to manage the tram project and TIE’s day-to-day operation from 2007 to 2011 was overseen by two Lib Dems, one Labour and a Tory councillor who were board members, but councillors continually complained about being kept in the dark.

At council level, the SNP moved that the tram scheme be scrapped due to the lack of detail on costs, timescales and risks involved on 30 April 2009 but the other parties did not even support calls for a report on the costs and timescales.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

No accountability

Lord Hardie’s long-awaited and costly report on the trams fiasco makes grim reading but importantly, lays bare the utter incompetence of this SNP administration in dealing with infrastructure procurement and highlights their arrogance in spending decisions relating to the public purse.

Lord Hardie details failures across all aspects of the project but perhaps his comments relating to John Swinney and his “lack of candour” around his telephone conversation with Transport Scotland Director Ainslie McLaughlin is the most telling. The SNP tried to scrap the whole project when they entered Government and were defeated. Is it just possible that it was in a fit of pique, that John Swinney intervened and made the dreadful decision to instruct Transport Scotland to “scale back” their involvement and so remove a key “oversight” role? This instruction from John Swinney, in effect, gave himself the powers for direct involvement when in reality this should have been the role of Transport Scotland.

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Finally it appears yet again, that no one in government, TIE or Edinburgh Council faces any penalty whatsoever and it is the public and the public purse that bears the brunt of their arrogance and incompetence.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Paying our way

Lorna Thorpe (Letters, 20 September) has completely misunderstood my letter regarding the increased pressure on public finances. This is being caused in part by the increase in over-65s, which in itself is to be welcomed, and is compounded by a reduction in those of working age. There needs to be a constructive debate on how to fund the growing gap.

I was expecting a reaction and hopefully some alternative suggestions but not one that accused me of “dreadful ageism”. That is a first. We are all either over 65 ourselves or hopefully will be and making contributions so we should celebrate the additional services Scotland provides, but we do need to find a way to pay our way. I would welcome Ms Thorpe making a constructive alternative suggestion.

As things stand there will be massive additional pressure on future public finances that will fall to future generations of working people.

We have to ask if it is fair for Scottish-based working tax payers, including those originally from the rest of the UK, already residing in the highest taxed part of the UK, to pay even more and allow those over-65s coming to enjoy additional services without having made those increased tax contributions.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

Stamp duty

Best wishes to the new Postmaster at Sanquhar, the world’s oldest post office (Scotsman 19 September).

I hope he will be able to obtain plentiful supplies of the Scottish first- and second-class definitive stamps. Sadly, and surprisingly, many post offices no longer sell them. There seems to be a problem with supply from Royal Mail here. I hope this is not a ploy to try to phase them out.

RJ Ardern, Inverness, Highland

Truth at last?

Clearly the Fake History Police have completed their investigations into the plaque at Henry Dundas’s statue in St Andrew Square and the evidence has been removed.

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When important Scots historical figures are maligned by unqualified individuals masquerading as historians, clearly something had to be done. The nation which led the Enlightenment cannot have plaques at historical monuments to its important men stating untruths to satisfy contemporary, warped interpretations of history.

Dundas was instrumental in ensuring that both Scotland and then, later, Great Britain led the world in outlawing slavery. It was an uphill struggle in which he was a leading figure.

Sadly, he was unable to prevent the African kingdoms who enslaved fellow Africans from continuing that vile practice, but thanks to him, the trade was banned and the descendants of those slaves are now free.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

Cunning plan

The First Minister’s cunning plan to break up the UK by winning the most number of seats at the next general election and to then “demand” – that old chestnut of a word resurrected – negotiations would have delighted Blackadder’s Baldric.

And then one of his own party had to spoil it by saying: “But, er, wait a minute First Minister, we already have the most seats. Why are we waiting for the next election?” There’s always some smarty pants to spoil things, isn’t there? And recognition by the EU and UN and other countries with a mandate like that would be to say the very least problematic.

I have a feeling even Baldric would advise that a referendum is the only feasible way. Or why not leave it in abeyance for 50 or 100 years and let the people of Scotland resume being a normal country again? In any case, it was the ideal time to do an uninvited runner to New York and avoid flak.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Aiming higher

Humza Yousaf has set his sight higher. No longer is it just Westminster in the firing line for all ills, it is world leaders too as he proudly struts the global stage (“Yousaf under fire over record as he demands climate action”, Scotsman, 19 September).

Mr Yousaf, his party and the Greens too seem to have forgotten what devolution was all about: improving local conditions. Their track record in Scotland is abysmal. How many Scots have noticed improvements as opposed to those who can see the decline?

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Nonetheless, Mr Yousaf is now on the world stage bemoaning other leaders and their policies whilst at the same time giving away more Scottish taxpayers’ money whilst the poor and needy back here suffer.

Scotland ought to come first if devolution is working but obviously doesn’t. Pride comes before a fall.

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

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