Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

Bridge cash row set to continue

Artist impression of the new Forth crossing
Scottish ministers said the new bridge was a once-in-a-generation project

Scottish ministers will continue to pursue the Treasury for a cash advance to pay for the new Forth road bridge, despite the request being rejected.

The chancellor's department knocked back an SNP call to spread the cost of the 2bn crossing over 20 years.

Scotland's Finance Secretary John Swinney told BBC Scotland his option was the sensible way forward.

He said Scotland had the cash to pay for the bridge, but could only do so at a cost to other public projects.

The chief secretary to the treasury, Yvette Cooper, said the Scottish Government's request was not a credible option and suggested alternatives, such as building up a big underspend or using a PPP tie-up with the private sector - a policy which the SNP has heavily criticised.

The Scottish Futures Trust is there to essentially bring about collaboration between different projects of a smaller scale
John Swinney
Scottish finance secretary

Mr Swinney told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that his approach was a responsible way to guarantee construction of the new crossing, which would be Scotland's biggest building project in a generation.

And he said the Scottish Government's flagship Scottish Futures Trust scheme, seen as an alternative to PPP/PFI, was designed to cater for "smaller" projects.

The finance secretary said he would further pursue the SNP's proposal with the Treasury, highlighting the UK Government's decision to speed up some capital spending in its recent pre-Budget report.

Mr Swinney said: "We have the money to pay for this crossing through our traditional capital budgets. We have 3.5bn of a capital expenditure programme every year and the Forth replacement crossing will cost us about 1.7bn over a five to six-year period."

Funding 'unclear'

But he added: "The cost of doing that is that there would be, unfortunately, delays to other projects.

"That's why we're trying to get the Treasury to give us the type of flexibility that any other normal administration would have by being able to borrow to pay for a once-in-a-generation project like the Forth replacement crossing and spread those payments over a period of years."

Mr Swinney went on to say the Scottish Futures Trust worked in relation to projects such as healthcare developments and school buildings, rather than a single, "generational" build, such as the new Forth crossing.

"The Scottish Futures Trust is there to essentially bring about collaboration between different projects of a smaller scale to deliver value for money," he said.

Labour MSP David Whitton said it was unclear how the new bridge would be funded.

He said of Scottish ministers: "They've got to look at the budgets they currently have and try and find them or they could, as the Treasury has suggested, look at PPP/PFI, but, of course, they are ideologically opposed to doing that."

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