Scottish Government blocking ‘billions of pounds of investment and jobs’ by refusing to engage with Union Connectivity transport review

The Scottish Government has been accused of blocking “billions of pounds of investment and jobs” by refusing to engage with the Union Connectivity transport review.

Writing for The Scotsman, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland Iain Stewart claimed attempts to improve transport were being blocked by Holyrood and labelled the move “petty politics”.

Led by Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy, the review will conduct a “detailed initial assessment of options for improved road and rail connections between England and Scotland, and England and Wales, as well as improved air links across the UK”.

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Mr Stewart said: “The UK Government has embarked on a comprehensive review of transport infrastructure right across the UK, to build a comprehensive picture of the state of the nation’s vital linkages, enabling us to look at where and how they could be improved.

A bridge to link Scotland and Northern Ireland is being investigated. Picture: John DevlinA bridge to link Scotland and Northern Ireland is being investigated. Picture: John Devlin
A bridge to link Scotland and Northern Ireland is being investigated. Picture: John Devlin

“This is integral to our efforts to fuel the UK’s recovery and build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the Scottish Government have refused to engage in the review and blocked officials from Transport Scotland from taking part.

“This is not only petty politics, but could prevent billions of pounds of investment and jobs reaching Scotland.”

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The UK Government official claimed the review was now being forced to go direct to councils.

He explained: “I have written to council chiefs across Scotland encouraging them to get aboard, joining industry experts, academics, engineering experts and the general public to contribute to this important piece of work.

“Local authority chief executives are uniquely placed to highlight the good and the bad; to tell us what works; what needs attention; what innovations and investment are needed.

"In short, they know what their communities and businesses need from their transport links and infrastructure.

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“The UK Government has also committed to bringing forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and now we want to identify ‘shovel-ready’ projects which can rapidly build up our communities and create jobs.”

It is thought the Department for Transport-commissioned review will examine potential projects such as a link between Scotland and Northern Ireland, and extending the Borders Railway south to Carlisle.

The report is due to publish its findings next summer.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson labelled the move a “power grab”.

A spokesman said: “Transport infrastructure is a devolved matter. The Union Connectivity Review was established without any meaningful discussion with devolved administrations and is nothing more than a blatant power grab.

“While we seek to engage constructively with the UK Government, we will absolutely not sign up to anything which in any way undermines the devolution settlement.

“The Scottish Government has consistently supported the expansion of high speed rail across Britain.

“We have been working with the UK Government on feasibility studies to increase the capacity on the congested and over-loaded east and west coast mainline railways to meet the forecast demand for additional cross-border passenger and freight services.

“We await a commitment from the UK Government to turn those studies into concrete plans.”

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