Cardownie named tram cheerleader

ONE of the biggest critics of the city's tram line has been recruited to help promote the £512 million scheme.

SNP leader and deputy council leader Steve Cardownie will be involved in a new communications strategy for the embattled project.

The move comes as the planned eight-month closure of Princes Street was rubber-stamped by councillors.

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A package of measures is being put in place to avoid a repeat of the traffic chaos during the initial works on The Mound in October. Part of this will see city leader Jenny Dawe, council chief executive Tom Aitchison and Councillor Cardownie – who called for ex-tram's boss Willie Gallagher to resign in the wake of The Mound failures – in charge of deciding how future tram works are communicated.

Opposition politicians tried to get ex-Labour man Cardownie removed from the process, but were defeated at a full council meeting yesterday.

Councillor Dawe today described opposition objections to Cardownie's involvement in the tram scheme as "petty", while Councillor Cardownie said suggestions that he would undermine the process were nonsense.

Councillor Ian Perry, Labour's city transport spokesman, said: "Steve overseeing communications just doesn't make sense to me. I am not questioning Steve's integrity, it's just that the SNP has taken every opportunity to knock this project and you would think they were the last people they (the Lib Dem's] would want to take advice on the trams from."

Councillor Cardownie, however, insisted that while he is against the tram project, work has started and "we need to do our best to make it work".

"Believe me, my party or I get no pleasure from seeing the city centre snarled up like it was that day in October, or traders on Leith Walk suffering because of the congestion caused by tram works.

"We are firmly behind the message that Edinburgh is open for business and any suggestion that there might be some sort of subterfuge on our part to undermine the trams is just nonsense."

But Tory finance spokesman Cameron Rose poured scorn on Councillor Cardownie's comments. He said: "I would be more impressed with Steve Cardownie's reassurances if he hadn't been the first one to call for the resignation of the CEO of TIE at the first sign of trouble last time round."

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Councillor Dawe also told the full council meeting that she, transport leader Phil Wheeler, the council's chief executive Tom Aitchison and the city development director Dave Anderson would all take collective responsibility if there was a repeat of the chaos experienced during The Mound closure when work gets under way on Princes Street next year.

She added: "Steve Cardownie is only one person, contrary to what some might believe, and I have no issue at all with the deputy leader being part of this process.

"The SNP have accepted the trams are happening and they are being constructive