Campbell starts his blog by admitting he’s “been struggling to get a good grip on what’s happening with the Forth Road Bridge this week”. This is evident as he fails to mention either Derek Mackay’s duplicity or the 65% capital spending cut Audit Scotland noted was imposed by the SNP. But let’s look at the six points he does raise.
1. It is all Labour’s fault (Labour = Bad).
Firstly, FETA was not a “non-government organisation” (AKA NGO), it was a “Quasi Non-Governmental Organisation” (AKA QUANGO). Suggesting that the Scottish Government had no control of FETA is bonkers – it set its budget and was able to privatise it. Furthermore, suggesting Labour Councillors were somehow to blame for the cancelation of maintenance in 2010 is silly. There were some good engineering reasons for this delay, but Audit Scotland also noted at the time that the Scottish Government “Funding arrangements continue to provide management with challenges”.
2. FETA was Funding Work from its reserves 2011.
FETA did, wisely, hold a contingency reserve. However, its reserves were buoyant in 2011 as the Scottish Government was providing funding in advance. This is clear when we put Campbell’s quote in context: “The effect of advanced grant funding has been that FETA instead of having to draw down reserves for increased capital expenditure has increased its net reserves. However, FETA is planning to use its reserves to meet future capital expenditure”. Nonetheless, he April 2014 minutes are absolutely clear that work was deferred in 2011 due to a spending review.
3. The replacement work would have entailed the closure of the bridge for a significant period.
Campbell provides no evidence to substantiate this, nor does he define “significant”. The FETA minutes are clear that there would be “disruption”, but this is not detailed – it could be anything from speed restrictions to full closure. In any event, a proactive closure would be better than the crisis we currently find ourselves in.
Importantly, FETA favoured repair to replacement (less cost and disruption).
4. Replacing the failed component in 2010 might simply have seen the bridge having to be closed twice.
This is pure speculation which ignores the fact that Derek Mackay has said the 2010 work would have seen the failed component replaced:
5. The removal of bridge tolls is a red herring
No, the tolls gave FETA the budget it needed to inspect, maintain and operate the bridge. By removing them, FETA faced cuts at the hands of the SNP.
6. Work on the Queensferry Crossing should have started sooner.
This is a red herring. If the condition of the existing bridge was justification for building a whole new bridge, why cut its inspection, maintenance and operation budget? Think about it.
Some of the above is arguably differences of opinion. Nonetheless, it is very clear that Campbell is exhibiting confirmation bias. Something we all suffer from time-to-time. 😉