28 June 2007

On track

The SNP was, as expected, defeated over the Edinburgh Tram scheme last night, and has bowed to the will of Parliament. However, Finance Secretary John Swinney has made it clear that any overspend it the City Council's problem. Also, EARL, hangs in the balance, and it looks like SNP policy will come to pass there. For those who have been following this via the MSM, let me point out that this does not mean "no EARL". It means that the current plan is dodgy,and there should be an EARL if possible, but there has got to be a better plan than the one that's currently on the table. So basically, everyone comes away with something: the Opposition get their trams and agreement in principle (and if it's workable) to EARL. The Government will make the initial outlay for the trams but will not sign a blank cheque, and will get to re-do EARL to its own specifications. This is a sensible compromise, and even the Daily Record, the voice of the Labour Party on Earth, offers praise:

"THE SNP government suffered their first defeat since taking power yesterday.
"Their plans to scrap Edinburgh's proposed trams network and airport rail link were overturned by opposition MSPs.
"It could have sparked a political bunfight of point-scoring and bickering, gloating and sour grapes.
"But - amazingly - what Holyrood gave us yesterday was common sense. And all the parties deserve some credit.
"The trams project will go ahead - but be kept to a tight budget.
"The rail link, which has not been well run, will get the go-ahead only if John Swinney can iron out problems.
"He doubts he can, but at least he has agreed to try. And, in fairness, it's thanks to Swinney we know about problems with the rail link in the first place.
"The betting is, a cheaper version will emerge to replace it.
"For once opposition MSPs - Labour, Lib Dem and Tory - agreed what was best for Scotland, not for their parties. The SNP did the sensible thing and agreed.
"This is how parliament has to work in future."

It's hard to argue with that. For my part, I'm still not happy at the current tram plans - they don't go far enough for my liking and I'm annoyed that the Royal Infirmary won't be part of the network. But a tram line in one part of the City is better than a tram line in no part of the City, so here's hoping that the project goes well and that we don't have to wait too long for Line Three.

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