By Francis Stuart

We all know the upcoming Scottish election campaign will be dominated by cuts. This isn’t surprising given we are looking at significant cuts year on year to the Scottish Budget and a future Scottish Government, whether that be made up of Labour or the SNP, that fundamentally disagrees with the UK Government economic strategy.

Yet we are also in a position where neither of these parties, at least publicly, is willing to explore any of the existing powers to offset these damaging cuts.

That’s what makes the Scottish Government plan to spend £2.3 billion on an unnecessary additional road bridge across the Forth, and sign off the contract before the elections, all the more galling.

We already know that the existing Forth road bridge can be fixed. Studies undertaken for the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, the group responsible for upholding the existing bridge, have shown this could be done for £122 million. Further studies to be made available shortly after the election, are expected to show that that this can be done cheaply and with little disruption (if you want to know the details of it, the new study is looking at a process called dehumidification which dries out the cables to prevent corrosion, whereas the previous study looked at replacing the cables).

Despite this, Scotland’s most senior civil servant has granted special dispensation for Ministers to sign off the final contract before elections in May. This runs completely against normal pre-election rules.

At a time when green investment and public services are facing huge cuts, surely this money would be better spent elsewhere. For £2,300,000,000 you could:

• Build over 100 brand new schools, or
• Employ over 11,000 nurses for 10 years, or
• Repair all the potholes on Scotland’s roads, or
• Insulate all of Scotland’s lofts and cavity walls, or
• Put over 10,000 bobbies on the beat for 10 years, or
• Save every Scottish taxpayer £80 a year for the next 10 years.

Friends of the Earth Scotland, supported by a coalition of transport groups including Transform Scotland and Spokes, have launched an online campaign urging this unnecessary £2.3 billion road project not to be signed off before the election.

If you agree with us (and stay in Scotland) email your MSPs by Tuesday here.

Francis is Policy and Parliamentary Officer for Friends of the Earth Scotland