Let's get the transport basics right - and not buy bridges in the sky - Kenny MacAskill

The Union Connectivity Review has generated headlines, mostly over Boris’s Bridge as some have termed a suggested link from Scotland to Northern Ireland.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has eyes on a potential bridge link between Scotland and Northern Ireland - but perhaps we need to get the basics right first, says Kenny MacAskill. PIC: Getty.

I have to confess that I’m as sceptical as most of the experts. Distance, logistics and a whole host of other factors make it if not impossible, certainly highly unlikely.

But there are things that could and should come out of this review. As ever its not the grandiose schemes but simpler projects that can deliver more, albeit without the same fanfare or flagwaving.

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There are only so many routes south from Scotland and two of the principle ones pass through my East Lothian constituency.

The A1 is way better now than it was for many years but the M74 is still the preferred corridor for most. Upgrading it not only offers alternatives but opens up opportunities. Even more so would be an improvement on the East Coast Main Line.

Now I must plead a special interest as its my chosen method of heading south to London. But upgrading it has huge potential economically and environmentally, both locally and more widely across Scotland and northern England. Investing in that would be a far better use of scarce resource than studies into a bridge too far. Given all the expenditure on HS2 that’s coming nowhere near the north-east of England let alone Scotland, there’s a need to splash some cash and not drop it in the Irish Sea.

But there needs to be increased capacity with current lines already restricted. A new loop, or even triple or quadruple lines in parts of East Lothian, would allow for that. New services to challenge low cost flights are coming and should be encouraged. Post COP26 no less can be expected.

Moreover, the USA has discovered changes to working practices might see people who require to commute less, willing to travel further on the times that they do. That opens up potential benefits down the east coast, whether in a travel corridor to Newcastle or improved links to Edinburgh.

Any of that makes more sense than a Boris Bridge.

Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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