It’s time for the SNP to be honest about PFI.


I’m disappointed that James Duncan and Fraser Grant chose to exploit the concerns of parents at Oxgangs Primary School in an ill-informed attempt to score cheap political points against the Labour Party (letters, 13/04/18).  Yes, Labour did use PFI in the past but, unlike the SNP and Tories, we have now abandoned the failed scheme.

In 2006 Alex Salmond told Scotland that “PFI was a quick fix and a costly mistake”. If elected he was going to ensure  “our public assets can be held in trust for the nation without the unnecessary private profit that is part and parcel of PFI”. Forget the fact that “unnecessary private profit” was never defined, this was about bashing Labour.

In their 2007 manifesto, the SNP said:  “The Private Finance Initiative was devised by the Tories and has been embraced with enthusiasm by New Labour. However it is really a type of privatisation, with all the disadvantages which that entails.”

Of course, the same manifesto was less clear on what the SNP alternative was.  The public perception soon became that PFI was abolished.

In reality, it had been replaced by the SNP’s “NPD” (non-profit distributing) model. Progress was slow, but by 2011 peer reviewed research stated it came at “high economic cost”. The same paper concluded: “The argument of the Cabinet Secretary that NPD will eliminate ‘excessive profits’ is not supported by the evidence.”

By 2015 alarm bells began to ring quite loudly. The Guardian reported that the programme will cost the taxpayer £10 billion in borrowing and running costs between now and 2048. Little wonder that Audit Scotland have launched an inquiry into the SNP’s re-branded PFI.

In Edinburgh the SNP have procured everything from the new Sick Kids Hospital (now 6 years behind schedule!) to the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service HQ using their version of PFI.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has pledged to end the use of SNP PFI funding when he becomes Scotland’s next First Minister. I hope James Duncan and Fraser Grant can set aside party differences and back him on that.

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