Claim That Bridge Cost Cover-up Continues

Campaigner Robbie the Pict yesterday claimed the Scottish Executive was still trying to cover up the bridge's real cost - despite the latest 128 million forecast by the National Audit Office.

 Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has written to the consultancy firm responsible for compiling the original feasibility study for the bridge for Highland Regional Council, asking it to clarify certain aspects of its role.

He is particularly anxious to confirm whether JMP Consultants' report was sold by HRC for a nominal sum to each of the three firms contending for the Skye Bridge contract.

Mr Pict's claim and Mr Kennedy's move follow the NAO's forecast to MSP Euan Robson, a member of the Scottish Parliament's Holyrood Audit Committee that the bridge scheme, first estimated at 10.5million, would cost 128million, and the executive's subsequent statement to the Press and Journal, watering down this prediction.

Mr Pict condemned as "nonsense" an Executive spokesman's claim that the NAO's 128million forecast was made on the basis of a 6% annual inflation rate over the life of the contract, and that inflation had not been near that rate.

 He said yesterday: "In reality the formula is based on every pound handed over at the toll booth being discounted by a bank charge of 6% plus inflation - which works out about 9% compound from the base year of 1991. It means that a pound handed over this year is only considered to be worth 48p and that will drop to 43p next year - but the Bank of America, which owns the bridge operating company, will keep the difference." Mr Kennedy has submitted seven questions to JMP Consultants, asking:

Mr Kennedy stated: "JMP's role must be clarified. I'm anxious to resolve whether or not it sold any element of the feasibility study to the firms tendering to build the bridge."

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Copyright Ray Shields, 2000.

Most recent revision, 16 April 2000