Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Sunday, 11 January 2009

Talks planned over Forth crossing

Artist impression of the new Forth crossing
The Scottish Government wants to borrow 2bn to build the crossing

Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy has invited the Scottish Government and the UK Treasury for talks to discuss how the new Forth crossing will be funded.

Westminster last week rejected the SNP's plan to borrow money from future budgets to fund the 2bn bridge, paying it back over 20 years.

Mr Murphy said it was important to make progress on the issue.

It comes as the Scottish Government produced a list of bodies which support its call for full borrowing powers.

The UK Treasury rejected the request to borrow from future budgets as "not a credible option".

Mr Murphy said he thought progress could be made and has invited both sides to meet on 27 January.

He said: "I'm inviting the SNP government and the treasury to talks despite the way in which the SNP's played politics with this. The sums don't add up. They are trying to borrow money against budgets that don't even yet exist over a period of two decades.

"But despite the fact the SNP sums don't add up, it is important that we do make progress which is why I'm inviting them to these talks. Because it is important that we build this new Forth crossing, we want the right crossing at the right price. I think we can make progress."

Finance Secretary John Swinney said he was delighted about the meetings but was in no doubt that about the right way forward.

He said: "The sensible way to proceed is to undertake this bridge project under traditional government procurement and we've got the money to pay for that in our capital budgets.

"What's important is that we have a sensible and constructive discussion with the treasury about spreading the cost of the bridge over a number of years to ensure that we can support other capital projects at the same time. I'd be delighted to discuss that issue with the treasury because it reflects a sensible way forward."

Borrowing powers

The STUC, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish have added their names to a list of public bodies who support the Scottish Government's call for full borrowing powers.

A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said: "If we have responsibility for major issues such as funding a new Forth Bridge - the biggest capital project in Scotland's history - then it makes perfect sense for us to have the financial responsibility to match.

"What this issue clearly illustrates is the need for the Scottish Parliament to have borrowing powers, so that we have the ability to phase the funding of major capital projects sensibly and efficiently."

He said Scottish Government should be able to make its own decisions on how to reflate the economy during the current downturn and said the Northern Ireland Assembly's had borrowing powers of up to 2.5bn

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, Reform Scotland, the Scottish Council Foundation, Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott, the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church are also among the groups said to be backing the government.



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SEE ALSO
SNP under fire on bridge funding
08 Jan 09 |  Scotland
Forth bridge payment plan blocked
04 Jan 09 |  Scotland
Cut-price Forth crossing outlined
10 Dec 08 |  Scotland
Warning over future funding plans
27 May 08 |  Scotland

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