Scotland could ‘miss out’ on £20m for road and rail links over review response, UK Government claims

Scotland could miss out on £20 million to help boost road and rail links because of the “disappointing” response from Holyrood ministers to a nationwide transport review.

Scotland Office minister David Duguid accused Nicola Sturgeon’s government of a “lack of engagement” with to the Union Connectivity Review (UCR).

Led by the current chairman of Network Rail and former commissioner of Transport for London, Sir Peter Hendy, the review will look at transport infrastructure across the UK, considering where future spending could be targeted.

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However, the UK Government has accused Scottish ministers of refusing to engage with the review amid accusations the move is a power grab.

The Scottish Government has been accused of not engaging with the Union Connectivity Review

The Conservative minister Mr Duguid hit out: “The lack of engagement from the Scottish Government on the Union Connectivity Review thus far is disappointing.

“The people of Scotland are set to miss out on the benefits of this £20m interim funding, which could improve their day-to-day lives, something for which we all should be striving for.

“Failing to engage when there is funding on the table risks leaving Scotland at a standstill.”

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At the end of June, the UK Government promised £100m would be invested across England to improve the quality of local roads, helping local economies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Duguid said to “jump-start” some of the projects already identified by the review, the UK Government had made £20m of development funding available for “some of the road and rail schemes that the review considers crucial for cross-border connectivity”.

The Tory MP was speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum, and stressed the UK Government was aware how transport links were “vital to economic growth, job creation and social cohesion”.

Mr Duguid said ministers in Whitehall would “stand ready to work together with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to consider the recommendations of the UCR once they are published”.

With Sir Peter to publish his final recommendations later in the year, the minister added: “It is important that we work together so the benefits of this review can truly be felt across the entire United Kingdom.

“I look forward to the final report being published later this year and working across governments to make these recommendations a reality.”

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland Iain Stewart had claimed in January that attempts to improve transport were being blocked by Holyrood, describing the move as “petty politics”.

The Scottish Government has previously warned plans for a Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge/tunnel proposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson – which could cost up to £50 billion, risked sucking money away from schools and hospitals as well as other transport schemes.

A spokesperson for transport minister Graeme Dey said: “Transport is devolved to Holyrood and the Tories should respect that, instead of engaging in a power grab which has seen them promise much, but deliver little in reality.

“The so-called Union Connectivity Review was established without any discussion and consultation with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Scotland needs an infrastructure-led economic recovery to deliver new jobs and speed up the transition to net-zero – something the Tories are undermining with their cuts to our capital budget in the UK Spending Review for 2021/22.”

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