Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Swinney 'would not change Edinburgh tram decisions'

john swinney Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Swinney said that, back in 2007, he did not want the minority SNP government to be "curtailed by a trams project"

The deputy first minister has told an inquiry he would not change any of his decisions over the controversial Edinburgh trams project.

John Swinney said he was "satisfied" with his actions throughout the scheme.

The Scottish Parliament voted in June 2007 to pursue the trams project, despite the SNP minority government setting out its opposition to it.

The current inquiry is examining why it went significantly over-budget and was delivered years later than planned.

Mr Swinney was Scotland's finance secretary when the decision to proceed with funding the project was made.

The eventual £776m bill was more than double the sum earmarked at the outset by a previous Labour-led administration.

Mr Swinney told the inquiry in Edinburgh that the 2007 decision to move forward with the trams plan was made after a "frustrating" parliamentary vote to back it.

He said he had not wanted the minority SNP government to be "curtailed by a trams project".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The eventual bill for the Edinburgh tram project was £776m

Mr Swinney said: "I'm satisfied that the actions I took were appropriate for the office I had.

"There may have been minor transactional points which might have been done differently, there may have been issues which we could have expedited differently."

Jonathan Lake QC, senior counsel to the inquiry, then questioned if he was "happy" with his actions. The deputy first minister said he was.

Mr Swinney said the political landscape at the time led his party to agree to deliver a £500m grant.

'Scale back involvement'

He said: "We had been six weeks in office and it was clear we weren't going to change parliament's mind.

"We were concerned that there could have been some possibility the administration could have come under a challenge about staying in office.

"We didn't want the first SNP government in 70 years to be curtailed by a trams project."

The inquiry heard he asked Transport Scotland to "scale back" its involvement with the scheme to reduce the risk of the Scottish public purse being dipped into to fund it.

Mr Swinney said he was trying to clarify that responsibility lay with the City of Edinburgh Council, which was the "promoter" of the project.

He added: "I have been around long enough to know people can come back asking for more."

The inquiry before retired judge Lord Hardie continues.

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