‘People have punished us for it,’ party’s Scottish leader concedes after Edinburgh’s voters eject council leader, transport chief and 11 colleagues

The debacle over Edinburgh’s tram project is being blamed for the disastrous performance by the Liberal Democrats in city council elections on May 3.

Former council leader Jenny Dawe and Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader for the past five years, were voted out along with 11 of their colleagues, leaving the party with only three elected members. The swing away from the Lib Dems was much stronger in Edinburgh than nationally, with senior figures in the party conceding that the tram project, which is five years late and more than £200m
over-budget, had contributed to the backlash from voters.

Commenting on the influence of the tram project on the vote, Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats said: “People have punished us for it, there’s no doubt about that.”

Dawe, who has led the city’s Lib Dems since 1999, pointed out that all of the major parties had voted for the trams at one stage.

“It was a project that we inherited, [but] we voted for it in the beginning, we managed to turn it around and get things going the right way now,” she said.

The city council is now controlled by a coalition between Labour and the SNP. The new transport convener is Labour’s Lesley Hinds, a former Lord Provost of Edinburgh. She said this week that she remains a strong supporter of the tram project, although she said it had been mis-managed. The £776m project is due to be completed in the summer of 2014.

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