'...Accordingly, on the basis of the consideration of the material put forward by objectors, the TRA, and those who support the project, the conclusion is that this proposal should not be authorised, and that the compulsory purchase order should not be confirmed.1 Groups such as Joint Action on the M74 (JAM74) and Transform Scotland have suggested various other ways to deal with the congestion problem, such as improving public transport (especially relevent as 59% of Glaswegians do not have access to a car) and putting no-car lanes on the M8. It is widely believed that the whole planning and consultation process has been a charade and the decision to build the road was taken before the inquiry began. There has been extensive lobbying in favour of the road, principally from business groups. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Chamber of Commerce and various business including BAA, which owns Glasgow airport, have all been cheerleading for it. A group calling itself 'Complete to Compete' was formed, chaired by the Chief Executive of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Duncan Tannahil. In 2003 Mr Tannahill stated that 'this inquiry must not be allowed to delay the start of work by even a day.'2 The CBI, another key member of the group, has made repeated statements in favour of the scheme, in 2000 classifying it among their 'transport priorities for business'. When the Scottish Executive announced its intention to build the road, the CBI, AA, RAC and various prominent local businesses all issued statements in support of the decision. When the Labour Party came to power in 1997, many roadbuilding schemes were shelved; however, current predictions say that over 4000 kilometres of new road will be built by 2025. In this context, it is hard to give any credibility to Blair's claims of dealing with climate change at the G8 summit. Meanwhile, the Scottish Executive is considering a new piece of legislation: as part of a review of planning law, in cases considered to be of 'national strategic significance' public inquiries may be scrapped. Campaigners are worried that this legislation will be used to push through unpopular projects such as nuclear power stations and corporate (rather than community-owned) wind farms, and other road schemes such as the Aberdeen Western Bypass. Prescott tried and failed to pass a similar piece of legislation in England in 2001. FoE Scotland's Chief Executive, Duncan McLaren, said: 'This is nothing less than a naked power-grab by Ministers which will centralise planning, reduce public involvement and allow the imposition of unpopular and environmentally-damaging projects.'3 While this legislation will give most people less of a say in what gets built on their doorsteps, it is likely to work rather well for businesses. The situation looks bleak, but campaigners are still hopeful that the road can be stopped: JAM74 and FoE Scotland are lodging a legal objection to the scheme; having the results of the inquiry in their favour means a moral victory if not a physical one. For many people, this campaign is now about restoring democracy as much as campaigning against a new road, and could be chance to politicise a lot of people who are outraged at the way in which this planning process has been conducted. Scotland has a strong history of anti-road campaigns, such as the Pollock Free State, a long-lasting and inspiring campaign against the M77 (which cut through a large area of public land including some ancient woodland), in which protesters occupied the site. Or perhaps people should look to the M11 link road campaign (Claremont Road), in which protesters occupied houses that were due for demolition. For construction contracts, the route is split into three sections. Currently one of these only has two consortiums bidding, although three is generally the legal minimum4. It's possible that potential contractors are put off by the contaminated land they will have to deal with on the route; or maybe they are worried about having to deal with protesters?
1. SSP member Rosie Kane, quoted in the Daily Herald, 25 March 2005. 2. www.transformscotland.org.uk/members/jam74/pli.html or www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/transport/m74r-00.asp 3. Glasgow Evening Times, 2 December 2003. 4. Press release, 3 May 2005. 5. Consortiums who have shown an interest include Balfour Beatty, Robert McAlpine and Laing O'Rourke.