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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 00:06 GMT
Transport scrutiny rethink urged
Edinburgh tram - artist's impression
An artist's impression of an Edinburgh tram at Ocean Terminal
MSPs are often not qualified to handle complicated transport developments, according to a parliamentary report.

It said politicians struggle to understand the details of private bills in parliament on issues such as airport rail links for Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The report by Holyrood's Local Government and Transport Committee into the Transport and Works Bill backed the general principles of the legislation.

It would establish a new system for authorising major transport projects.

The report comes after Holyrood's Waverley Railway (Scotland) Bill committee met for almost three years to consider the legislation.

Technical issues

Under the proposals, private bills would be replaced by a new ministerial order system with parliament's approval needed for projects of national significance.

The report said: "MSPs who have served on previous private bill committees have worked hard to understand the technical issues involved.

"But it is clear that elected politicians are not intrinsically well qualified to carry out such work."

Labour's Jackie Baillie, who convenes a committee looking into the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill, was among those who questioned this process.

She told the transport committee: "A huge degree of complexity is involved in private bills and I am not convinced that MSPs are best placed to work their way through that."

Instead, MSPs should get involved at a later stage in the process, she said.

Power to overrule

The report added that as much information as possible should be given to those potentially affected by a proposed project before an application is made to ministers.

Objectors should also be given reasonable time to present their case.

The principle of using a Scottish Executive Reporter to examine objections to major projects is also supported by the committee.

In the last resort, though, the minister should have the power to overrule the recommendation of the Reporter.

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