Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Sunday, 4 January 2009

Forth bridge payment plan blocked

Artist impression of the new Forth crossing
The new bridge will not be funded by a cash advance from Westminster

The new Forth bridge will not be paid for with a cash advance from the UK treasury.

The chancellor's department has rejected a request from the Scottish government to spread the cost of the 2bn bridge over 20 years.

Finance Secretary John Swinney had asked for special permission from the UK government to pay for the new bridge with cash from future capital budgets.

But the chief secretary to the treasury said this was not a "credible option".

Yvette Cooper has suggested alternatives such as building up a big underspend or using a public private partnership (PPP).

The Scottish government said her suggestions were "ridiculous".

First Minister Alex Salmond told BBC Radio Scotland: "What we are proposing is thoroughly sensible and thoroughly credible.

"I'm not taking no for an answer.

I am sorry that for ideological reasons they have ruled out using public private partnerships
Alastair Darling

"When we have these productive discussions, he [the chancellor] will see the great virtue in our plan to enable Scotland to go ahead with this extraordinary capital investment without impinging and forcing a delay on capital projects in Edinburgh, for example."

Mr Darling explained the reasoning for the refusal to BBC Radio Scotland's The Business programme.

He said: "Firstly there is no doubt that we need a second Forth crossing.

"We are happy to work with the Scottish government.

"If you are contemplating large projects like this you do need to make choices.

"The Scottish government's no different from any other large organisations.

"I am sorry that for ideological reasons they have ruled out using public private partnerships.

Forth Rail Bridge (Pic: Undiscovered Scotland)
All parties agree the new bridge is essential for Scotland

"We will work with the Scottish government, but their particular scheme where they were asking to borrow money from budgets which are yet to be allocated over an extremely long period - that's something that we simply don't do.

"I think they ought to have been aware of it and they could have found out if they had asked earlier."

Labour MSP Andy Kerr demanded a guarantee from the SNP that the new bridge would go ahead.

He said: "It is absolutely essential that we go ahead with the new Forth Road Bridge.

"This is one of Scotland's most important transport links and many thousands of jobs depend on it.

"The SNP's response to the treasury is not good government but bad politics and another example of their incompetence and irresponsibility.

"The onus is on them to find a credible way to pay for the crossing."

The Scottish government now plans to pay for the bridge from existing capital budgets, which means other major public works will have to wait in a queue for funding.

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