An independent Scotland would have a more modern and joined up transport system, Nicola Sturgeon told haulage chiefs today.
The Deputy First Minister said the Scottish Government is committed to the largest transport investment programme Scotland has ever seen and stepped up calls for airport taxes to be handed over the Holyrood.
In a speech to the Road Haulage Association, she said it was clear that decisions over tax and capital spending needed to be transferred from Westminster to Scotland to boost economic performance.
“Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Even without North Sea oil our national income per head is on a par with the UK as a whole,” she said.
“Where we have had the power to make decisions in Scotland we have further strengthened the economy. But we know also that there are real costs when decisions about Scotland are taken in Westminster.
“On roads, for example, one of our very first actions in government was to take on the costs of bridge maintenance, abolishing the tolls that were acting as a drag on the development of our economy.
“We have used our devolved powers over transport infrastructure wisely, and are committed to the largest transport investment programme that Scotland has ever seen.”
This includes the £320 million M80 Stepps to Haggs project, the M74 Completion and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral route will create 46km of new road, as well as the new Forth road bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, which was described as the “jewel in the crown” by Ms Sturgeon.
But she said the decision of Westminster to cut capital spending in Scotland by 26 per cent was the wrong decision in a downturn - and warned that Westminster’s decision to levy the most expensive aviation duty in Europe was also undermining the Scottish economy.
“It’s a commonly-held view that the UK Government’s Air Passenger Duty (APD) harms the competitive position of Scotland’s airports and adds significantly to the cost of flying to and from Scotland,” she said.
“UK APD is the most expensive aviation duty in Europe, and the UK is ranked second lowest in the world in terms of competitiveness of ticket taxes and airport charges. A tax regime of this kind may be justifiable in terms of seeking to reduce pressure on overcrowded airports in South-East England. It cannot be justified with regard to Scotland’s circumstances.
“In an independent Scotland, a competitive Scottish aviation taxation regime will stimulate new and existing direct international services,
bringing a major boost to the Scottish economy.”