Alex Salmond faces heat over project funding shortfall

Alex Salmond. Picture: PA
Alex Salmond. Picture: PA
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THE Scottish Government has failed to deliver a £119 million investment for building schools, £65m for colleges, £27m for new roads and £39m for the Borders rail project this year, an official document has revealed.

The discrepancy between the money forecast for the projects in 2012-13 and the amount actually raised was revealed in a document produced by the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), the Scottish Government quango responsible for delivering construction projects.

The document gave a breakdown of previously released figures that outlined the quantity of money raised by the Scottish Government’s Non Profit Distribution (NPD) funding model.

Despite the government forecasting that £353m would be raised by the mechanism in 2012-13, only £20m has been raised for this financial year.

The £20m that has been raised has been earmarked for community health, but remains a fraction of the £104m that the government had hoped would be spent in that area.

The SFT revealed that plans to invest £119m in schools, £65m in colleges, £27m on the M8, M73 and M74, as well as £39m on the Borders rail link, had failed to materialise this year.

Opposition politicians criticised the delay in cash raised by NPD, a funding method introduced by the SNP that aims to encourage the investment of private cash in capital projects.

The lack of NPD cash available has also been criticised by the building sector, which has argued that investing in projects would stimulate the construction industry.

At Holyrood, Alex Salmond has come under fire for suggesting that a lengthy legal challenge taken against plans to build a new Aberdeen bypass “might explain” why more cash has not been forthcoming this year.

The SFT document, however, confirmed that it had always been planned that the money for the bypass would not be onstream until 2013-14.

Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said: “This exposes the SNP’s failure to build the schools, hospitals, colleges and roads it promised this year. But the worst thing about it is the fact Alex Salmond attempted to blame the problems of his NPD scheme on the Aberdeen bypass. We knew that wasn’t correct, and this document today proves that.

“Not a penny had been earmarked for the bypass in 2012-13, yet the First Minister told the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland that the reason only a tiny fraction had been ­delivered was because of this. We now know it was vital projects like schools and hospitals that were falling victim, with money for the Aberdeen bypass not planned until 2013-14.”

Labour’s Richard Baker said: “This is more evidence that while the SNP make lots of announcements about capital spending, helping to promote the economy, the figures tell the real story. Not one penny of the £119m Futures Trust funds meant to be spent on schools last year was actually spent, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Projects are delayed, money isn’t being spent, contracts aren’t being signed and jobs are being lost as a result. The SNP can’t answer the questions on why this money isn’t being spent.”

A Scottish Government spokesman defended the SNP administration’s record: “We are taking forward one of the largest revenue-funded investment programmes of its kind in Europe – worth at least £2.5 billion – none of which would be happening had this administration not devised the innovative Non Profit Distribution model to counter Westminster cuts and as an ­alternative to the PFI schemes of the past.

“NPD projects starting construction in 2013 include the M8, M73 and M74 motorway improvements, the City of Glasgow College and Inverness College.”