Daily roundup: Scottish Greens, 20 April

greens2Yesterday’s announcement that the SNP have signed a contract for the additional Forth Road Bridge with FCBC was denounced as an election gimmick by the Scottish Greens, and the party pledged to put cancellation of the contract on the table for any post-election talks.

The results of the dehumidification work on the existing bridge will be available later this year, and if that work is unsuccessful the party would support the recabling of the existing bridge at an estimated cost of £122m. According to a letter dated 18 March 2011 from John Swinney to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, there would be no penalty charge for this, merely payment for work done and costs.

The Greens also pointed to concerns about the viability of the winning bid, as raised in New Civil Engineer magazine earlier this month, where sources close to rival consortium were quoted to the effect that FCBC “must have missed something” to bring costs down by £260m, approximately the figure which the SNP propose to use for a series of spending commitments.

Patrick Harvie said:

“This is not a done deal, whatever the SNP may want people to believe. We know the costs for cancellation of this contract after the election would be minimal, while the costs of going ahead with construction of an additional bridge would be enormous.

“The Scottish public would pay directly if they get their way, through worsening congestion and years of disruption, and through a painful squeeze on capital funds available for housing and education. This absurd plan would pour hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds away unnecessarily just as the Scottish budget comes under greater pressure than ever before.

“This is a scandalous stunt for the SNP to pull two weeks before polling day, although Ministers and civil servants alike had threatened to ignore “purdah” rules on announcing controversial decisions during an election. Anyone with any understanding of recent Scottish history will know that the costs of this bridge would spiral out of control the moment work begins. This contract is a misconceived attempt at an election giveaway, and it would be unpardonable folly to proceed with it.”

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The Scottish Greens also launched a commitment to designate Scottish waters as a whale and dolphin sanctuary, to boost eco-tourism and help support Scottish coastal communities. The commitment comes on the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Greens are the only party in Holyrood to have supported a moratorium on deepwater drilling in Scottish waters.

The Greens’ proposed cetacean sanctuary would cover all of Scotland’s inshore and offshore waters out to the 200-mile territorial limit, and would introduce a presumption of protection for whales and dolphins while in those waters.

A Scottish cetacean sanctuary has been a long-term commitment from the Greens, who introduced an amendment in this area to last year’s Scottish Marine Bill which was voted down by the other Holyrood parties.

Eleanor Scott, the Scottish Green Party’s Co-convenor and top candidate in the Highlands and Islands region, said:

“Scottish waters provide one of the best whale-watching opportunities in Europe. The designation of the whole of Scotland’s seas as a cetacean sanctuary would assist Scotland’s growing whale and dolphin-watching businesses, and would provide much needed support for remote and coastal communities that rely on eco-tourism for much of their income and employment.

“The move would also send a strong message to the world’s few remaining whaling nations that Scotland values and wants to protect the whales and dolphins that live in and migrate through its waters.”