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Bridging the gap

Brian Taylor | 15:48 UK time, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

When listening to a ministerial statement, pay attention to what is said. And still more attention to what is not said.

At Holyrood, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson explained that he had approached the Treasury about rescheduling capital investment in order to fund the replacement Forth crossing.

But he did not say whether the Treasury had responded, positively or otherwise. Further inquiries elicit the fact that they have yet to reply.

In essence, the plan is to accelerate capital investment up to 2016 to enable the crossing to be funded - with a consequent cut in capital spending thereafter.

It is that restructuring which requires Treasury sanction.

Ministers envisage a conventional design and build contract for the new crossing - which will cost much less because it won't require a public transport lane. (Public transport will continue over the existing bridge.)

No tolls

So no PFI. No tolls. No shadow tolls. (Three cheers from the government benches.)

But no innovative funding scheme either. No bond issue. No role, it would appear, for the Scottish Futures Trust in this particular project.

To be fair, Mr Stevenson said the trust would play a role in enhancing value for money across capital expenditure generally.

To be fair, further, this is a substantive and substantial document which attempts to address Scotland's transport needs while, simultaneously, cutting carbon emissions.

However, it is detail in implementation which will matter. Ministers will be judged by that.


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