Spotlight on Scottish Futures Trust
Baillie: ‘we must all learn and improve’ on funding deals
Jackie Baillie: quango shrouded in secrecy (photo by Terry Murden)
Labour’s economy spokesman Jackie Baillie today attempted to quell a war of words over the financing of infrastructure projects in Scotland.
Ms Baillie published an independent report by Scottish economists Jim and Margaret Cuthbert, which raised questions over the transparency and value for money from the SNP’s flagship Scottish Futures Trust scheme.
However, before the report was published the SNP demanded Labour apologise for what it calls a “dreadful” PFI legacy which has cost the public purse billions that could have been spent elsewhere.
Ms Baillie said the report raised important issues over procuring of work, the interest rates being charged and the economic impact of the Scottish Futures Trust which oversees public-private deals for new school and hospital building projects. She called for a “root and branch review” of the trust’s operations.
She noted that Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission launched an investigation into the scheme for breaching EU rules.
“The SNP’s flagship method of financing projects like schools and hospitals needs to go under the microscope,” she said.
“The activities of the quango the Nationalists have set up to finance major projects has remained shrouded in secrecy for too long.
“We know there are increasing levels of private finance in flagship infrastructure projects, and that Scotland’s public spending watchdogs are investigating the operations of the Scottish Futures Trust.
“This expert report will offer the first serious examination of the methods the SNP use to finance major infrastructure projects.”
The SNP hit back, demanding that Labour say sorry for the £1 billion annual repayment bill which is still being paid out every year for schools and hospitals signed off under the party.
These projects had a total capital value of £4 billion, but will cost £22 billion in repayments, said the SNP.
SNP MSP Ivan McKee said: “Labour’s toxic PFI legacy is still impacting on Scotland’s public services more than a decade after they left office.
“This £1 billion bill that we are paying is robbing a significant sum of money from our budget that could be used to pay for vital frontline services and to grow our economy.
“Unless Jackie Baillie is willing to make a full apology today for the dreadful mess that Labour made of the public finances with their disastrous PFI contracts, no one will listen to a word they say.
“The SNP was proud to bring to an end Labour’s disastrous PPP schemes and in the relatively short time since SFT was established it has achieved a cumulative total of almost £1 billion in of independently-verified savings and benefits.”
Jackie Baillie with the report by Jim and Margaret Cuthbert (photo by Terry Murden)
At a media conference at the Scottish parliament, Ms Baillie accepted that there were questions to be asked of all parties in their handling of these projects over the years.
“I am not apologising for building schools and hospitals and I don’t think the current government would either.
“A country the size of Scotland needs to get this right and I think there are better models. As politicians we have to learn and improve.”
The SNP earlier listed what it called some of the worst examples of PFI/PPP contracts signed by Labour, including:
Hairmyres Hospital, which had a capital value of £68 million, but the total repayment will be £675 million;
Addiewell Prison, which had a capital value of £80 million, but will cost taxpayers £955 million;
Levenmouth water upgrade, which has a capital value of £45 million, but will cost taxpayers more than £580 million.