HIGH-PROFILE transport infrastructure proposals will be a critical factor in the post-election horse trading between political parties vying for power in Scotland, it emerged this week.
The Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservative parties have all said they support both the proposed £650M Edinburgh Airport Rail Link (EARL) and plans to build a modern tram system in the capital. However, the Scottish National Party (SNP) opposes both.
The Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party support the tram system but oppose the EARL project, which controversially includes a tunnelled section under the runway.
Commentators expect no party to achieve a dominant position in the Scottish Parliament in the 3 May elections meaning a coalition or minority administration is on the cards.
Although the SNP is leading in the polls it is thought unlikely to win more than 45 of the 129 seats in Parliament.
If the SNP gains a majority from Labour it is expected that it would stand its ground on refusing to back the airport rail link but agree to finance the first phase of the tram system. This would allow it to support an alternative scheme to the airport and gain a tram connection to a new rail station on the FifeEdinburgh line.
Whichever party wins a majority, the cancellation of the M74 completion project in Glasgow, currently out to tender, is unlikely. But the scheme is opposed by the Greens and the Socialists, two parties whose support would be critical to a minority SNP administration.
Both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats would continue to use public-private partnership/private finance initiative for many of the next wave of new and refurbished public sector facilities and infrastructure projects. The SNP is strongly against privatisation and has proposed an alternative funding structure ( see box).
All parties pledge stepped increases in statutory building standards and smaller businesses can look forward to benefiting from parties' promises of big reductions in business rates.
SNP: a not-for-pro-fit Scottish Futures Trust providing lowercost borrowing opportunities for infrastructure funding for both local and national projects.
Divert EARL cancellation savings to other road and rail improvements.
Labour Party: establish 100 skills academies in schools and increase modern apprenticeship places to 50,000 a year.
Take forward Glasgow crossrail proposal and implement approved rail schemes by 2011.
Liberal Democrats: new Forth crossing to include light rail provision. Build all approved rail schemes by 2011, electrify some network sections and raise line speeds on inter-urban corridors.
Conservative Party: examine feasibility of a Maglev or highspeed rail line linking Glasgow and Edinburgh in 15 minutes.
Privatise Scottish Water.
Scottish Socialist Party: Free public transport, which, it says, will cost £1bn a year. It would also renationalise the railways after the end of the current franchise in 2011.
Greens: Cancellation of M74 completion and Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road. Block use of PFI. Invest in cross-rail in Aberdeen and Glasgow, and at Dornoch rail crossing.