The closure of the Forth Road Bridge could not have been foreseen, a Holyrood inquiry has said, amid calls for those businesses affected to receive compensation.
A crack under a truss forced the bridge to be closed to all traffic from 4 December which unleashed immediate accusations that ministers had ignored engineering advice and avoided repairs to save money.
It re-opened to cars on 23 December, although HGV traffic was not allowed back until mid-February.
An inquiry by Holyrood’s infrastructure and capital investment committee took advice from engineering experts and MSPs and concluded that budget cuts and the abolition of bridge tolls had eroded the budget for the bridge.
However, the majority of MSPs on the committee said the decision to defer the work was appropriate, “on the basis of both the prevailing financial circumstances and the engineering advice available”.
The committee also agreed that “the defect which caused the closure in December 2015 could not have been foreseen”.
Scottish Labour and Liberal Democrats called for compensation to businesses affected by the closure.saw over Christmas.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “This report is a big disappointment and doesn’t nearly go far enough. The bridge is a major artery that closed on the government’s watch.
“They should not leave businesses to pick up the tab. The committee has recognised bridge users and particularly hauliers were severely affected. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were lost by businesses.”
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said the Scottish government’s slow response in repairing the bridge “has had a catastrophic impact on people and businesses.”
Transport Minister Derek Mackay said he believed a “clear procedure” was in place for the closure of the bridge in emergencies but he promised ministers would carefully consider the report’s conclusions.
He added: “We particularly agree with the finding that the defect, which led to the bridge being closed, has been recognised as ‘unforeseen’.
“It is clear the decision to close the bridge was the right thing to do and the efforts in getting the bridge fully quickly reopened were a ‘remarkable engineering achievement’ given the challenging conditions.”