First to give praise where it’s due.
The bridge is now open two weeks early, 6 January having been put around previously as the date for re-opening.
The minister Derek Mackay has, to my surprise, come out of it rather well so far. He did indulge in some initial apparent grandstanding in a high vis jacket, being seen boarding a boat called unbelievably the Nicola 2, he did slightly ludicrously claim that he was ‘mobilising the welders,’ and in the middle of it all he did take time unwisely to tweet about the ‘phenomenal success’ of the SNP this year. But the government press release announcing the re-opening is as it should be, factual and technical. The minister’s words in it are measured, not a hint of triumphalism, and he gives credit to the contractor responsible for the bridge.
- The contractors admit that their achievement has only been possible because of favourable weather.
- The repairs made so far are only ‘temporary’ and the bridge is not open yet to HGVs and heavy loads. Final repairs are only expected by mid-February, 5-6 (?) weeks later than previously thought.
- We don’t know (or at least I haven’t seen) whether the costs of repair will fall upon the contractor responsible for the bridge’s maintenance, Amey, or whether it will be an additional sum to come from the public purse.
- Significant inconvenience has been caused to hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis for the last month.
- Major disruption and additional costs have been incurred to the economy of a substantial part of Scotland through the unplanned closure. These have yet to be quantified but will continue until at least mid-February.
- There are strong grounds for believing the government bears a substantial (if not sole) responsibility for the failed truss end link due to past budget cuts in the bridge’s maintenance.
- With their majority in parliament and with the ‘success’ of an early, albeit partial, re-opening of the bridge the government are likely to hold out against a sufficiently broad public enquiry to establish the full facts of what happened to lead to the unplanned closure and why.
So, in contrast to a nationalist belief that this blog only finds bad things to say about the SNP, there’s a mixed picture on the bridge. The recovery has been effective, so far. But it’s a recovery that should never have been necessary – short term success balanced against longer term failure and culpability.
The fundamental No Thanks! opposition to the SNP is of course based on a wider principled opposition to the one thing they really want, separation from the United Kingdom. If the one party that could deliver separation fails, and they do on a number of important areas of public policy, they must expect to have that pointed out. It’s part of normal democratic politics, not ‘doing down Scotland.’