SNP HS2 Manifesto pledge has Midlands in a panic (needlessly). The SNP manifesto commitment to HS2 starting in Scotland simultaneously to the creation of the Birmingham London Link has caused a fair bit of panic in the Midlands. Partly as they worry that no deal will be done and the project will be cancelled, and partly as they hadn’t read the manifesto.
As a fairly vocal Scottish opponent of HS2 this led to me being asked onto two Midlands radio stations to discuss what the SNP holding the balance of power would mean to the project in their area. Appearing alongside me on both shows was pro-HS2 rail researcher Jim Steer from Greenguage21, who knew his stuff (had read the manifesto) and tended to agree with the SNP’s policy. First we did BBC Radio Coventry with Shane O’Connor and then BBC Radio West Midlands with Adrian Goldberg.
The key points made were that Scotland pays a population percentage share of such capital projects (Barnet consequentials almost never apply in such cases) but the PWC report used by the Government to justify the project used figures more than 12 years out of date, and also predicted that the economies of Aberdeen and Dundee would shrink by £310 million a year due to the changes in Scottish rail services, costing tens of thousands of Scottish jobs.
Shane had a good laugh when I pointed out that Scotland was asked “to lead the UK not to leave it” and that Westminster was now panicking as Nicola Sturgeon seems to be planning to take them up on the offer.
Adrian Goldberg’s line of attack was more aggressive and sceptical but I pointed out that government after government had been putting all the UK’s economic eggs in the same basket and if we want fairer distribution of prosperity we need to start thinking about the rest of the UK, not just rail services to service London.
Jim made a good point, which is that the UK is missing an overall integrated transport system and therefore some investment in Scotland to facilitate HS2 is probably the right way to go.
Of course what people don’t seem to have realised is that there will be enough Tory and Labour / LibDem MPs voting for HS2 without it starting simultaneously in Scotland that it will happen anyway. The SNP therefore wins if it starts here and if it doesn’t, then the unionists will have presented a clear case study on how Westminster isn’t willing to invest in Scotland and the North East of England. If HS2 does get built I hope it does start here, however, I still have my doubts about the entire project no matter where it starts, and I don’t accept PWC’s economic analysis as valid, so I would urge the SNP to make sure that a problem cost benefits analysis with up to date passenger productivity survey work is being done as part of the negotiations.
Update: Victory – Since the UK government has now been forced to admit that Hs2 will never reach Scotland. The civil servants who compile the GERS report have confirmed to Business for Scotland that they will now refuse to accept any contributions to the cost of Hs2 on Scotland’s behalf.
Business for Scotland – Prosperity for Scotland – Join us now
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