Firstly, a full disclosure – I hate the M74 extension. And it has nothing to do with green politics, but rather a classic case of nimbyism. It ruins my walk to and from town, it’s dirty, it’s ugly. I hate it.
But that’s not what has prompted this post. Rather, a fellow young green tweeted earlier today in response to the Scottish Government claim that the M74 extension was to be brought in on time and under budget.
Sure enough, the project appears to have been brought in on time. On costs, however, the waters are murkier.
Back in 1999, the mooted costs for the M74 project were £177m.
By 2001, this figure had risen to £245m.
And by early 2008, when the go-ahead was given for completion of the project, the price was £445m. On top of the £200m already spent, that is.
Now the Scottish Government is proclaiming a big success, but are they including all the costs? Friends of the Earth Scotland has raised concerns that they have not included “the significant expense of cleaning up contaminated land along the route of the new road” which they estimate could cancel out the claimed savings.
Doubtless the true cost of the development will come out in the wash. Three years ago, Audit Scotland warned that large scale capital spending was routinely coming in over budget. They have said this has improved subsequently, but we cannot afford to be complacent, especially given the SNP are already allocating savings from projects that haven’t even commenced building work yet.
Every party except the Greens backed the Second Forth Crossing. It seems it is too late now for us to realistically prevent that project going ahead but what we must push for is transparent and honest accounting of the costs, both economic and non-economic.