ALL documents relating to maintenance of the Forth Road Bridge should be made public, according to Scottish Labour, after an email revealed specific fears were raised about safety on the crossing nine months ago and some heavy loads were banned.

Chief bridge engineer Barry Colford ordered restrictions on vehicles weighing more than 150 tonnes in February after analysis of the bridge’s truss end links, one of which has since cracked, forcing the bridge to close.

The call comes as a senior engineer accused the Scottish Government of “gambling” with the safety and longevity of the bridge. The bridge has now been closed for 10 days, causing disruption in eastern Scotland, with vital repairs not due to be completed until early January at the earliest.

In an email to Lesley Hinds, convenor of Edinburgh City Council’s transport, infrastructure and environment committee, Colford wrote: “The restriction needs to be in place until all the truss end links are either strengthened or replaced.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said the document undermined claims by SNP ministers that the crack was “unforeseen and unforeseeable”.

Transport Secretary Derek Mackay accused Labour of “deliberately misinterpreting the facts” but remains under increasing pressure to explain the position and his assertion that a cancelled strengthening works programme five years ago was “unrelated”.

Yesterday, an investigation by our sister paper The Sunday Herald found that safety works on the bridge were put off for at least seven years amid mounting concerns about funding and transport disruption.

The now-defunct Forth Estuary Transport Authority, which previously managed the bridge, saw its maintenance budget drop by 65 per cent in 2012 as the new Forth crossing, which is due to open next year, took priority.

According to engineers, the temporary repair currently being carried out will cost £2 million, but the bridge will require a further £81m in maintenance work over the next decade.

Lawyers have warned the Scottish Government they could face a multi-million pound compensation claim from businesses facing disruption.

Senior engineer John Carson, who led the team that built the Skye Bridge, said alarm bells had been ringing for years. He added: “It was farcical that Transport Scotland was trying to pass this off as unforeseeable. There have been alarm bells ringing for years and Transport Scotland knew this. With the new crossing coming, they gambled and lost.”

Rowley added: “The fact that as far back as February there were concerns about the safety of the bridge is very concerning.

“We now know the chief engineer was so concerned about the safety of the bridge that certain vehicles were prevented from travelling on it.

“We need full transparency from the SNP Government about this. The idea that problems with the bridge were unforeseen, as Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay have claimed, just doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny.”

Opposition parties have called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the closure of the crossing.

Mackay said the works referred to in the email sent by the chief engineer in February were on “another part of the structure”.

He added: “The facts remain that the particular fault that has caused the crack, the damage and the closure to the bridge, was not predicted and was not identified, therefore it remains the case that this incident was unforeseen.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that Labour are now deliberately misinterpreting the facts and information for petty party political gain and that’s the wrong thing to do. The right thing to do is to put all energy and focus on fixing this bridge and getting it reopened, whilst mitigating the impact on the local community. That is exactly what I am doing and will continue to do.”