Scotsman Letters: Labour’s principal role in costly Edinburgh trams debacle

Brian Wilson makes a valiant effort at airbrushing out of history Labour’s principal role in the costly Edinburgh Trams debacle (The Scotsman, September 23).
Labour was in control when the flawed contracts for the ambitious Edinburgh trams scheme were signed.Labour was in control when the flawed contracts for the ambitious Edinburgh trams scheme were signed.
Labour was in control when the flawed contracts for the ambitious Edinburgh trams scheme were signed.

Edinburgh residents will remember that in March 2003 Labour’s transport minister, Iain Gray, awarded £375 million from the Scottish Executive’s integrated transport fund to Edinburgh city council to build two tram lines to serve the north and west, “the first to be running by 2009”.

Mr Gray also says the money would pay for “at least” the North Edinburgh Loop. The Labour council believed this will also pay for a line from Haymarket to the airport.

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In March 2006 the Tram Bill is passed by MSPs voting 88 to 20 in favour. New transport minister Lib-Dem Tavish Scott raises funding to £490m. The SNP, and in particular Kenny MacAskill, opposed the Bill on grounds that the business case didn’t stack up, but were heavily defeated by Labour, Tory and Lib-Dem MSPs.

In June 2007, during the crucial transport debate in Scottish Parliament, Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm said: "Indeed, nobody with more experience of digging up Edinburgh can be found than the company that has been awarded that part of the contract"; and “the people who are involved in developing the Edinburgh trams project have learned the financial lessons of other such projects”.

Labour was in control when the flawed contracts were signed. TIE Ltd was established to oversee the project and questions need to be asked of the Lib-Dem, Labour and Tory councillors who were appointed to sit on TIE’s board. No SNP representative was on TIE’s board.

As for public inquiries, I note that the Labour government in Wales has refused to hold a public inquiry into their botched handling of the Covid pandemic.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Justice for Brand

I am appalled that, after more than a week of claims by various former sexual partners of Russell Brand, not a single MP or MSP has come forward to defend the basic principle of British justice.

For those who have forgotten (journalists and politicians, this means you) that principle is that a person is innocent of any and all crimes until proved guilty in a court of law.

As far as I am aware Mr Brand has not been tried nor even arrested, let alone found guilty. The media storm (including the many calls by politicians for him to be removed from social media) is therefore unpardonable and makes it much, much more difficult for a fair trial to take place.

How can justice now be served? Neither the accusers nor the accused can be confident that any trial will be fair and unbiased. In the meantime, a possibly innocent man has his life wrecked.

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I have little time for Mr Brand; I find him unfunny and, remembering the infamous Sachs broadcast, not all that pleasant. However, he is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In today’s world of social media pile-ons and cancel culture, that presumption is something that we mess with at our peril. It may be the only defence ordinary people have.

Alan G. Melville, Edinburgh

Flynn attack

On the recent Debate Night programme, Stephen Flynn, SNP MP, accused a young audience member of being ‘a Tory activist’, with the implication that the young man was not entitled to be there and/or ask a question. It’s as if there had never been SNP activists in TV audiences.

The question the young man asked was, in effect, why does the SNP always blame Westminster for any failing in Scottish health or education, which are devolved issues under the sole control of the SNP/Green regime at Holyrood? That seems to me a perfectly legitimate question, and not an overtly party political one.

Instead of answering the question, Mr Flynn attacked the questioner and then said loudly, at least three times, pointing at his lapel: “I wear my badge. I wear my badge. I wear my badge.” The young man was not wearing a badge to identify a political affiliation. On Mr Flynn’s lapel there was indeed a badge. But it was not one bearing the SNP’s logo; it was a Saltire emblem.

Are we to deduce from this that Mr Flynn regards the Saltire as the identifying symbol of the SNP, and that he thinks that the SNP and Scotland are congruent? Have we reached such a state that the ruling party claims to speak for all of Scotland and that other parties have no legitimacy here? That is very much what it looks like.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Net zero policies

With stunning starkness, Elizabeth Marshall (Letters, September 23) lays out the folly of adopting net zero policies without realistic costing or consideration of the consequences.

Yet this lack of rigour with net zero policies runs much deeper. For many years a ‘cancel culture’ has been wielded against those scientists and others who have dared to question the evidence upon which net zero is supposedly based.

The lack of timely and open debate of the costs and consequences of net zero is no less striking than the lack of open debate about whether there really is robust scientific evidence for a ‘climate emergency’.

Cameron Rose, Gilmerton

Sea eagle attacks

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With reference to your recent article by Philip Lymbery and photograph of a sea eagle (September 22); would it be appropriate, in recognition of the immense distress they are causing to hill sheep farmers in the west of the country, to balance the situation by publishing a clip from the widely circulated video showing a sea eagle carrying a struggling lamb in its talons back to the nest where it will be torn to pieces by its chicks?

John Elliot, Earlston

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