Meeting of the Parliament 22 September 2011
Scottish Executive Question Time
First Minister’s Question Time
Secretary of State for Scotland (Meetings)
Borders Railway (Cost Cap)
Lewis Macdonald: Does the First Minister understand the concerns arising from reports this week of mounting costs and mounting delays in this non-profit-distributing project? If he does, and given his Government’s choice of that funding method, will he explain what else he will do—if he is not pursuing a cap—if the sole remaining bidder seeks to further increase the price of completing the project?
The First Minister: The timescales referred to in the media earlier this week are consistent with our programme for delivering the Borders railway on budget and by December 2014. We put the construction figure between £235 million and £295 million and we are sticking to that. The Minister for Housing and Transport will make an announcement on the future delivery of the project in the near future.
I say two things to Lewis Macdonald. The track record of Transport Scotland under the Scottish National Party Administration in delivering huge projects on time and under budget—the M74 and the M80, for example—is impeccable, compared with the record under the Labour-Lib Dem Administration. Of course, when Lewis Macdonald was a transport minister, not only did he not put a penny into the Borders railway project, which he claimed to support, but he was a major sponsor of the private finance initiative. Only this week we have seen yet again detailed the cost to future generations of Scots of that misguided policy.
Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP): Can I further remind the First Minister that, on the Labour-Liberal Democrat Administration’s watch, the cost of the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line went from £23 million to £85 million and was two years late—incidentally, with not one piece of the Borders line being laid, notwithstanding—
Christine Grahame: Tavish Scott, the minister, said that the Borders line would be up and running by 2007. Does the First Minister therefore agree that he needs no lessons on delivering transport projects on budget or on time from the Opposition?
The First Minister: Yes I do. The cost of railway projects is an important aspect that this chamber should acknowledge. The Airdrie to Bathgate link cost £375 million and was the largest commuter line to be opened in Scotland in a century. It was officially opened this year and was within budget. That is testament to the track record of this Government compared with that of our predecessors.
Jim Hume (South Scotland) (LD): It has been five years since the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Bill was passed in 2006. Does the First Minister really expect the people of Midlothian and the Borders to believe that trains will roll into their communities in 2014, give that the timetable keeps going back and back? In 2009, the then transport minister stated:
“a contract for the construction of the railway work will be delivered in autumn 2011.”—[Official Report, Written Answers, 24 November 2009; S3O-8498.]
Jim Hume: We are now in autumn 2011. Can the First Minister give us a specific date when we can all go online and book our tickets to Galashiels?
The First Minister: I repeat what I said two questions ago to Lewis Macdonald: the timescales referred to in the media are consistent with our programme for delivering the Borders railway on budget and by December 2014. The confidence that Jim Hume can have in that statement is based on the strong delivery record of Transport Scotland in this Government’s term of office, when project after project has been delivered on time and on budget. We should not allow the mistakes of the past, committed by other parties, to make us lose confidence in the ability of this Government to find a way to deliver the project on time and on budget.
Further Education (Job Losses)
Supreme Court and High Court of Justiciary (Criminal Cases)
Scottish Executive Question Time