Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 17:54 UK

Forth Crossing Bill debate

MSPs overwhelmingly backed the general principles of the Forth Crossing Bill after it was debated at the first stage of its parliamentary scrutiny, on 26 May 2010.

The aim of the bill is to grant Scottish ministers the necessary powers to construct a new road bridge over the Firth of Forth, adjacent to the existing Forth Road Bridge, along with new and upgraded connecting roads.

The Forth Crossing Bill Committee backed the plans for the £2bn bridge project.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson, who led the debate, told MSPs the building of a new bridge was imperative for Scotland.

Mr Stevenson said the old bridge would be used by public transport and cyclists and that the government was looking at a number of ways of mitigating the potential impact of increased traffic on Edinburgh and the surrounding towns.

The convener of the Forth Crossing Bill Committee, Jackson Carlaw, said all the committee unanimously backed a replacement bridge and could see no alternative to it.

Mr Carlaw said it was essential the project did not face cost over runs, as the parliament had, and he was heartened cost reports would be submitted every six months to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said the new bridge was "the most expensive SNP press release in history" and warned Scotland would end up with two bridges for private cars, when the transport minister of the day was forced by angry motorists to open the old bridge to more than just public transport.

He said having two bridges for private cars would inevitably result in an increase in traffic volume and carbon emissions.

Liberal Democrat MSP Margaret Smith, Labour MSP Mary Mulligan and Labour MSP George Foulkes all expressed concerns their constituents had about the impact of the construction project on their lives.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill voted against the law which would allow the new bridge to be built across the River Forth.

The minister's spokesman said his "vote was cast in error" and that he was "fully supportive" of the government's plans for the replacement crossing project.

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