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Greater transparency over transport projects – Audit Scotland

The Scottish Government is spending £7.5bn on transport infrastructure projects over the next thirty years, Audit Scotland has found. Reporting of the costs of the five largest projects must be improved, its new analysis recommends.

The report looked at the costs of the Borders railway, EGIP and motorway improvements, the Aberdeen bypass and the new Forth bridge. The government and Transport Scotland are managing the risks well, Audit Scotland said, but warned that the organisations have not fully demonstrated the reliability of their analysis of affordability.

Processes for developing and updating business cases for major projects should also be improved – costs for the Borders railway have changed, with the business case not updated at all stages.

Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner said: “The estimated full public spending commitment for these five projects has not been reported until now and the forecast building costs for some have been incompletely or inconsistently reported.

“These projects will cost an estimated £3.8bn to build and will tie up about £7.5bn of public money over 30 years. It is important for the Scottish government to demonstrate that this spending is affordable.”

Transport minister Keith Brown said: “No government since devolution has embarked on such an ambitious programme of investment to transform our transport infrastructure. We are making record investment in roads, railways and bridges that will improve links and boost economic recovery.

“We very much welcome this report which confirms that all five of the major projects underway in Scotland are being well managed with sound governance structures in place to manage the risks involved in what are technically challenging and complex projects.

“We continuously look to improve our processes. We agree good quality business cases and up to date advice are an essential part of good governance and decision making, and Transport Scotland has well established procedures for business cases based on Treasury and OGC guidelines.”

Elaine Murray, Scottish Labour's transport spokeswoman, said: “This is a slap on the wrist for the SNP who now must ensure that the identified shortfall in transparency and accountability for these projects is rectified swiftly.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Tavish Scott added: “These are sensible recommendations which will go some way to ensure that transparency is being improved at every opportunity.”

And Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “We simply cannot afford for [projects] to spiral out of control, and that is a risk if the SNP continues to be secretive about the costs involved.”

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