It has been interesting to watch all the excitement building ahead of the launch of the new Queensferry Crossing. The bridge is remarkable in every way, a feat of engineering excellence that will stand the test of time and speak to all that is the best that our country can achieve.
That it was a publicly funded infrastructure project, created without recourse to the horrifically expensive Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and project managed to perfection, coming in at around £245 Million (18%!) under budget is a tribute to an SNP Scottish Government with a firm hand on the purse strings. That this has come to fruition despite the Scottish Government’s extremely limited capacity for borrowing and amid a Westminster financial squeeze shows some serious financial wizardry at play behind the scenes and credit must go to successive Cabinet Secretaries for Finance as well as the First Ministerial team.
I’ll be honest, the Queen wouldn’t have been my choice to open it, I’m not a big believer in the monarchy as an institution but the fact that she is coming to do so is an endorsement of the magnitude of the task that has been achieved. The fact that she will be carrying out the official opening is a testament to the overwhelming success of the project.
We are seeing the Unionist parties in Scotland, ably assisted by their media allies, attempting to do what they always do when there is an SNP success story. They either attempt to rubbish it entirely, as we saw with the wonderful baby box scheme, or where they believe public sentiment wont wear it, they retroactively attempt to claim some kind of credit for it.
The Labour UK Government under Tony Blair actually cancelled a planned new Forth Crossing and Jack McConnell in his time as First Minister was still arguing against the need for one, sticking his head in the sand and saying “It would be particularly stupid of us to start to carry out the work on a new Forth road bridge without having completed the analysis that will tell us what kind of facilities are required and what the exact nature of the current problem is.” The UK Government under Labour’s Gordon Brown denied a request from the SNP Scottish Government for an advance in funds to allow the new bridge to be built. Despite this attempt to thwart it, Gordon is rather unsurprisingly fronting a BBC show about the Queensferry Crossing. This is yet another example of why I refuse to pay a TV license.
It is an outrage that all the money for the Queensferry Crossing, the largest infrastructure project for a generation, is having to be found by the Scottish Government, while at the same time Scotland is being forced to subsidise the HS2 rail project that will never come near Scotland, to the tune of several Billion pounds. If the largest infrastructure project for a generation in Scotland isn’t seen to be worthy of UK tax money then it is unlikely that any other project will be in my or your lifetime. Are you feeling the love yet? How are those UK broad shoulders working out for you?
Why is it that we still have such long train journeys between our two biggest cities? Why are there major road and rail projects languishing because of a lack of funds? It isn’t normal and it isn’t what other normal countries do. Can you imagine another major European country that would allow such bad transport links to persist, with all the disconnection from jobs, education and tourism that this brings?
This bridge shows us what a Government working in the interests of Scotland can do, even in the face of the limitations artificially imposed by devolution. If this can be done, even in these difficult circumstances, dare to imagine how much better we could do for our country with the full range of powers that only normal statehood can offer.