Scottish independence: High-speed rail plan doubts

The SNP has stopped short of pledging to build a high-speed rail link linking Scotland and England. Picture: PA
The SNP has stopped short of pledging to build a high-speed rail link linking Scotland and England. Picture: PA
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THE SNP today failed to commit to building a high-speed rail line to the Border under independence despite repeatedly calling on the UK Government to make a similar pledge to extend as far Scotland.

The independence white paper only goes as far as confirming the Scottish Government’s plans announced a year ago to construct a high-speed route between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

That line is due to be completed in ten years’ time at an undisclosed cost, but a previous Scottish Government study put it at £7 billion.

The UK Government plans to build a line between London, Manchester and Leeds by 2033.

The document described high-speed rail as a “priority” but said only that the new link between Scotland’s two largest cities would “act as a ‘launch pad’ for high-speed rail services to the south”.

It added: “An independent Scotland could work together with northern English councils to argue the case more strongly for high-speed to go further north faster.”

The white paper also seemed to tie ministers’ previous commitment to complete dual carriageways between Scotland’s seven cities by 2030 to independence.

This will involve schemes costing a total of £6bn on the A9 and A96 between Inverness and Perth and Aberdeen.

It document said: “We can use the borrowing potential of an independent country to invest in the condition, reach and connectivity of our roads - achieving the long-term objective of dualling the road network between all of our cities by 2030.”

The document also repeated the SNP’s pledges to cut air passenger duty under independence in an attempt to attract more routes, consider introducing a fuel duty regulator to cap pump prices, and potentially enable the public sector to bid for the ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper train operating franchises.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The white paper reflects the work to date with [UK] Department for Transport on Manchester/Leeds to Scotland and does not ignore the work necessary to start planning high-speed rail between Scotland and England, but the case is far stronger with Scotland’s earlier inclusion.

“We are already developing plans for high-speed rail infrastructure in Scotland which will also free up the central belt so more services to other parts of Scotland can be created. “The current planning is independent of what is being developed in England, but will clearly be designed to be compatible. Independence will have no impact on these plans.

“We are determined to dual the road network between all Scottish cities by 2030, however the white paper is clear Scotland is currently being held back and we strongly believe that by making our own decisions we could build on our impressive track record.

“Meeting these targets and our ability to support much-needed infrastructure development would be greatly enhanced with control of all the levers of power.”