Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Assurances from tram firm were rubbish, says Swinney

Finance Secretary John Swinney has accused the company set up to run Edinburgh's ill-fated tram project of repeatedly misleading him.

He told BBC Scotland he had been given assurances from Tie on a contractual dispute which had been "total rubbish".

The dispute between Tie and the tramline contractors has led to massive increases in cost and lengthy delays.

Tie is no longer in charge of the project and work on key sections of the route has restarted.

But the budget has risen to £776m and it will be 2014 before trams are expected to be running on the streets of the capital.

The total cost, including interest payments, will be more than £1bn.

Mr Swinney said: "I was on the receiving end of information passed to me by the city council in good faith, I have to say principally from Tie, and it was absolute rubbish - total rubbish."

He added: "I certainly feel fundamentally misled by Tie as an organisation. I think they fundamentally misled Edinburgh City Council and created enormous difficulties for the project.

"The fact that Tie has, essentially, now faced its day of reckoning is an outcome which I think was too long in the coming."

Mr Swinney also said he had feared opposition parties at Holyrood would use the tram issue to bring down the newly-elected SNP government in 2007.

The Scottish Parliament voted to contribute £500m to the cost of the project, against the wishes of the SNP's minority administration.

The new chief executive of Edinburgh City Council, Sue Bruce, took the decision to end Tie's control of the project.

She described the relationship between the council and the company, which was set up by the local authority, as "unnecessarily complex".

Ms Bruce led the negotiations which resulted in a deal being struck with the companies building the line. That ended the previous stalemate and allowed work to restart.

She said: "People had got into entrenched positions, and we needed to get a lever to get us all out of those entrenched positions.

"I was delighted to be playing a part in that process".

The BBC Scotland documentary The Great Tram Disaster, will be broadcast on BBC 1 Scotland on Tuesday at 22:35.

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