Boris Johnson's bridge to Northern Ireland was absurd but SNP's own grand plans may also not deliver – Kenny MacAskill MP

Now I’m all for vision in politics. Where we want to get to and projects to work towards are essential.

Islanders want decent transport services, not tunnels and other grand schemes that may come to nothing (Picture: CalMac)
Islanders want decent transport services, not tunnels and other grand schemes that may come to nothing (Picture: CalMac)

However, that has to be balanced with simply delivering what’s required now, especially given the harm inflicted by coronavirus. That and a sense of realism.

The SNP were right to condemn Boris’s Bridge. It was an absurdity and one that has proven costly. The sums wasted telling us all how impractical it was and the unaffordable expense of it are shameful.

But that's been replicated, albeit on a lesser scale, by the Scottish government’s Strategic Transport Review. A tunnel to Mull and a metro in Glasgow, amongst other such schemes. Glory Hallelujah!

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Meanwhile the hard-pressed residents of Mull just want a ferry that works. That’s even before you go into the practicalities as with a fixed link to Ulster.

The shortest point between mainland and island would result in both a significantly lengthier road trip to Oban and with a massive upgrade of the route also being required. There are of course islands where such a tunnel is practicable, affordable and wanted, just not Mull.

Similarly, promises of a 21st century transport network for Glasgow are all fine and well but residents and commuters would be happier with improving what they’ve got and indeed not cutting it back or further racking up the cost.

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Bridges or tunnels could replace ferries to Mull and between Barra, Harris and t...

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Yet it’s the latter that’s happening as the excellent rail network that the city already possesses becomes ever more expensive. Rail is becoming the mode of passage for the wealthy alone, not a transport service for the wider general public.

Compounding that, proposed cutbacks to services and closures of booking offices are also undermining what’ve got. As we come out of the inhibited world we’ve been living in, getting back to normal is essential. It shouldn’t be less than before.

The lack of operated stations compounds disquiet as disorder has risen whilst we’ve been hibernating. A staffing presence matters, in both assistance and in providing reassurance, especially in Glasgow where there’s been some tragedies.

Can’t we just improve what we’ve got, before dreaming of what might never be?

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Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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