Union Connectivity Review, a clumsy attempt to serve political ideology rather than the need for transportation – Alastair Dalton


The study commissioned by the UK government said seven in ten people in Scotland who traveled to other UK countries once a month or more in 2019 were more in favor of the Union than those who did. done less regularly. The latter group was also divided, with five out of ten favoring the Union.

The obvious implication, for supporters of Scotland remaining in the UK, is that facilitating travel to other countries, especially England, will reduce support for independence.

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However, whether or not Scotland goes its own way, improvements to cross-border transport links will be needed.

The review proposed improvements to the main lines of the east and west coasts, but without specific proposals. Image: LNER / Crest Photography

It’s not as if the Nationalists plan to float the country closer to the rest of Europe, or even further to England, although they may like the prospect.

Despite this, the entire UCR process has been an unnecessarily clumsy attempt to serve political ideology rather than the need for transport.

One of the figures highlighted in the final report of the Union Connectivity Review

What a contrast with the Covid pandemic, where the two administrations avoided such an important quarrel, the British government largely respecting the powers devolved on health, despite a markedly different approach to dealing with the pandemic.

The result was a review that the Scottish government refused to participate in, with many Scottish local authorities also absent.

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As a result, the UCR has made no significant progress, as its chairman Sir Peter Hendy acknowledged in his foreword: “In most cases the report does not contain detailed new infrastructure proposals; this cannot be a surprise, given the lack of attention resulting from decentralization.

The review recommended further improvements to the two cross-border rail lines – without any specifics.

Rail operators have been pushing for this on the west coast route for years, while an upgrade is already underway on the east coast route.

He also called for the modernization of the A75 via Dumfries and Galloway – the main route between England and the ferry ports to Northern Ireland – which Transport Scotland is already considering.

But, in what might be seen as conciliatory wording, the report said funding should be offered to support the upgrade.

He also highlighted the ‘safety concerns’ of the shortcomings of the A1 two-lane road between Edinburgh and Newcastle, without explaining that – according to my expert source – the Scottish sections of the single track have been rebuilt to current standards, unlike to those south of the border.

The report noted that while decentralization had been good for transport, it had sometimes lowered the priority of cross-border programs.

A mature approach from ministers on both sides of the divide, geographically and politically, is now needed.

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