Scott Arthur is a civil engineer and Scottish Labour activist. Here he gives his perspective on the closure of the Forth Road Bridge.
Derek Mackay’s claim that Labour is “deliberately misinterpreting the facts” surrounding the closure of the Forth Road Bridge only has a chance of holding water if he were to tell Scots what the facts actually are.
When the failure was first discovered the Scottish Government tried to tell Scotland that it was spontaneous and unexpected. This argument was slowly picked apart by online bloggers, not Labour, who trawled through FETA minutes and Audit Scotland reports.
These blogs, amplified by press reports, forced Nicola Sturgeon to admit that her government had made substantial cuts to FETA’s budget. This was followed by an admission from Derek Mackay that work cancelled in 2010 would have seen the failed component replaced – this contradicted advice he had previously given to parliament.
Following these revelations, First Minister’s Questions last week proved to be an open goal for the opposition leaders – Kezia Dugdale scored a hat-trick. Derek Mackay’s response to this was the blame FETA. By doing this he blamed internationally respected engineers who were hamstrung by the budget his party had cut.
In a move that can only mean that those within FETA were unhappy with the blame game being played by the SNP, documents were leaked over the weekend to bloggers and newspapers. These showed that FETA had real concerns about the “truss end links” and that they were communicated to the Scottish Government.
It is within this context that Labour’s Alex Rowley, whose Fife constituency is hugely affected by the closure, is asking for full disclosure of all the documents surrounding the bridge’s maintenance.
Bizarrely, in response Derek Mackay accused Alex Rowley of “deliberately misinterpreting the facts” for asking for all the facts to be placed in the public domain.
The impact of the bridge closure has been huge. This ranges from ruined Christmas plans to lost profits and spiraling commuting costs. Everyone affected deserves to know why this seemingly preventable failure occurred. Derek Mackay must listen to Alex Rowley and come clean and it is the job of Scottish Labour to make sure this happens.