Page last updated at 21:00 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 22:00 UK

Commons row over new Forth bridge

Artist impression of the new Forth crossing
The Scottish Government aims to build the crossing by 2016

Ministers in the House of Commons have been urged to "stand firm" and resist a Scottish Government plea for extra money for the new Forth Bridge.

Holyrood is pressing ahead with plans to build the crossing but there have been doubts about how the estimated £2.3bn price tag will be met.

Labour's Rob Marris said Scotland already received "shedloads" of cash from the British taxpayer.

The Scottish Government said it was prepared to pay from its own budget.

However, a spokesman added that given the scale and unique nature of the project, it had approached the UK Government for the flexibility to spread the payment over a longer period.

Could you assure me the government will hold firm? Scotland already gets shedloads of money under the Barnett Formula
Rob Marris
Wolverhampton South West MP

Treasury Financial Secretary Stephen Timms said the UK Government had offered "flexibility" but funding for the crossing was a devolved matter.

He was responding to calls from Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and Fife West) who called on ministers to allow the Scottish Government to have "new borrowing powers" to allow it to raise more money.

At question time, he asked: "When will the government come forward with real new money to help pay for this bridge?"

Mr Timms said: "Funding is a devolved decision, it is a matter for the Scottish Executive to determine.

"We have offered flexibility to help within the economic framework applying to the UK as a whole and I hope that flexibility will allow this project to proceed."

'Full control'

But Mr Marris, Wolverhampton South West MP, then angrily intervened, asking: "Could you assure me the government will hold firm? Scotland already gets shedloads of money under the Barnett Formula.

"They are entitled to raise their own taxes and this government should stand firm against this bridge where they want even more money."

Mr Timms told him he had made a "forceful point", adding: "It is an important project but it does need to be carried out within the economic framework applying to the UK as a whole."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The position has been made clear in the Scottish Parliament on many occasions - the Scottish Government will deliver a new Forth crossing on time and on budget using our own resources by 2016 at a cost of between £1.7bn to £2.3bn.

"However, given the scale and unique nature of the project, we have approached the UK Government for the flexibility to spread the payment over a longer period.

"The reality is that the Treasury response involves no additional resources.

"The need for Scotland to have full control over its own resources, and the ability to borrow in the same way as other governments, has never been more evident."



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Warning over future funding plans
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