... and as most regular readers will know, I do try and keep my political comment 'Party-general' and not 'politician-specific', but on this occasion I'm suspending that approach for what will hopefully become blatantly obvious reasons.
It's no secret that I'm a supporter of the tram project, have been for a long time, and I continue to back the completion of the current tram works. Yes, I've had significant doubts about the recent political leadership of the project but my basic support for the principal of trams returning to Edinburgh has never wavered.
And thus, although I currently hold no responsibility for the 'delivery' of the project, I do feel compelled to try and expose some truly astonishing mis-truths that have surfaced in the local press today ... and I guess part of my feeling 'so-compelled' is to do with the very same lack of political leadership just mentioned.
My anger stems from the meeting of the Policy and Strategy Committee yesterday, at which there was a 'B' Agenda Item (Private) on the current troubles with the tram works on Princes Street. I'm not going to divulge the detail of the (Private) report that was discussed ... but what I will say is that all Political Parties were present, and although robust questions were asked (from all-sides) there were no moves to call for a re-think on the project's long-term status.
Indeed, we even had the slightly endearing spectacle (I'm being sarcastic!) of the majority Council Coalition partners 'thanking' the junior coalition partners for their constructive attitude to the problems of the previous week.
Then this morning we get this via the Scotsman, and this (see 2nd letter down) via the Evening News.
The article in the Scotsman sees Cllr. Cardownie calling for an update report containing a full audit of the tram scheme and the implications of pulling the plug ... okay, fair enough ... but no mention of this at yesterday's meeting, and one has to wonder just how the Lib-Dems on the Council must be feeling? Especially after heaping praise on the local SNP's constructive attitude just hours before??
But what's much worse is the letter in the Evening News - 2nd one down here - as it's completely and totally factually inaccurate:
- it mentions a Council meeting of 21st December 2006 when 12 SNP Councillors voted against the signing of the tram contract. THAT'S NOT TRUE.
- on the 21st December 2006, there was only 1 SNP Councillor in Edinburgh - Cllr. Cardownie - and at the Council Meeting of that date there was no report on the agenda concerning the tram project contract.
- the report on the agenda was the 'DRAFT Business Case' - you can see it here - and you can see how the vote went here: 57 votes to 1
- The letter also mentions that the Labour administration of the council at the time refused Cllr. Cardownie's request for a referendum on this issue - AGAIN, NOT TRUE.
- His amendment made no mention of any referendum - check it out on Page 7 here.
- Cllr. Cardownie had of course previously been a member of the Labour Group and I can never recall any internal vote were he moved (or even spoke) against the tram project, never mind asking for a referendum?
- and finally the letter also claims that the only party to oppose the signing of the contract for the tram project was the SNP - even that is NOT STRICTLY TRUE as you'll see below ...
So, by way of further clarification, and in order to complete the sequence of events:
- the 'FINAL business case' came before the Council on 25th October 2007 - you can see it here - and you can see how the vote went here: 46 votes to 12
- the actual contract acceptance wasn't approved by the Council until the 20th December 2007 - you can see that report here - and the vote here: 43 votes to 12
- and the contracts weren't actually signed unitl May 2008 - see here and you'll note from the minute of that meeting here that there was NO division at this contract signing stage.
Now, I can understand why my ex-colleague Cllr Cardownie has rushed to put pen to paper ... Nigel Griffiths has annoyed him. I do understand that.
Yet it's one thing to claim someone is trying to re-write history - quite another to justify that claim by a litany of factual inaccuracies that must surely make even Cllr. Cardownie blush?
And frankly: looking at all the dates above, and remembering the current Lib-Dem/SNP Coalition came into existence in May 2007, you have to wonder how much longer this whole charade will go on.
Never mind the politics - Edinburgh is suffering.
Very strangely - the on-line version of Cllr. Cardownie's letter now refers to a Council Meeting on 28th June 2007? I have a paper copy with the 21st December 2006 date in it and will gladly fax it to anyone! I can only assume someone has hastily asked the Evening News to change the date, claiming a mistake?
Well, it doesn't really make a blind bit of difference to the main thrust of my post above - the minute of the 28th June 2007 meeting is here and you'll see there is still no mention of referendums, contracts or the like.
I confidently predict further attempts to justify the evident litany of untruths in that letter ...
Well, I was right in my prediction above: check the 3rd letter down - here - from today's local paper ...
Very strange that the 1st May 2008 report, which actually APPROVED the final contracts, isn't mentioned in Cllr. Cardownie's second letter - see the relevant report here, and you'll note from the minute of that meeting here that there was NO division at this contract signing stage.
Indeed, if you check out item 12, on pages 12-13 of that minute, I can even confirm that the SNP actually 'moved' paragraph 6 as an 'SNP addendum' (it was moved by Cllr. Buchanan) to the first 5 paragraphs and the whole motion was then APPROVED BY ALL 58 Councillors ... including every one of the 12 SNP Councillors.
SUMMARY - the 12 SNP Councillors in Edinburgh APPROVED the final contracts for the tram project in Edinburgh.