Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh trams: SNP to back city centre route

Edinburgh's trams project looks set to get back on track after SNP councillors said they would support moves to build a line into the city centre.

The SNP group abstained last week when councillors voted to end the line at Haymarket, in the west of the city.

But now the party says it will back its Lib Dem coalition partners in a new vote at a special meeting on Friday.

That support should enable them to pass a motion to bring the trams to St Andrew Square.

Last week Labour and Conservative councillors joined forces to reject plans to borrow an extra £230m to run the line from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre.

Instead, they supported a Labour amendment to stop the line at Haymarket - a move described as "bonkers" by the chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

That decision could not be revisited for a year unless there was a material change in the circumstances that led to the decision.

However, on Monday night the city's lord provost called a special council meeting for Friday.

On Tuesday, the Scottish government said it would withhold about £72m of funding if the trams stopped at Haymarket.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said a route which would require ongoing public subsidy was "a significant departure" from the original concept supported by the government.

But he added that the government would consider a "credible proposition".

SNP councillor Steve Cardownie, the council's deputy leader, said last Thursday's vote had been "incredible".

"Nobody expected anybody in their right mind would vote for a tram line to go from the airport and terminate short of the city centre at Haymarket," he said.

"That took everybody by surprise, apart from those in the Labour group and the Conservative group who voted in that fashion.

"That is why we can't allow this to happen again. We can't run the risk that these two groups will join forces on Friday and reaffirm the original decision, which defies description."

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