Westminster Mismanagement

SNP HS2 Manifesto pledge has Midlands in a panic

High Speed TrainsSNP 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apply in such cases) but the PWC report used by the Government to justify the project used figures more than 12 years out of date, and also predicted that the economies of Aberdeen and Dundee would shrink by £310 million a year due to the changes in Scottish rail services, costing tens of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

Further reading

The hidden cost of the Union – HS2

Darling u-turns to cover up HS2 mistake #Indyref

Darling’s HS2 blunder to cost Aberdeen and Dundee £316m a year

Westminster’s HS2 folly will cost Scottish jobs

HS2 rail benefits to economy ‘unclear’, says National Audit Office 

High-speed trains to be hit by Scots delay | Herald Scotland

Eddington Transport study – HS2 low priority for investment 

Does there need to be an economic case for high-speed rail?

About the author

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the Founder and Chief Executive of Business for Scotland. Before becoming CEO of Business for Scotland Gordon ran a business strategy and social media, sales & marketing consultancy.

With a degree in business, marketing and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G).

Gordon benefits (not suffers) from dyslexia, and is a proponent of the emerging New Economics School. Gordon contributes articles to Business for Scotland, The National and Believe in Scotland.


  • Forget HS2 we should be building Elon Musks Hyperloop. Far cheeper and far faster. Glasgow to London in 1 hour for 20 quid. It can apparently be be built for 4 billion quid and can be built on existing rail and road routes. Less planning issues and a fast build time.

  • Having recently driven from West Sussex to Scotland through the development of the so-called “smart” motorways, and from the Sheffield area up the M1 and A1(M), it seriously looks as if there is a concerted effort to make driving so tedious and time consuming that HS train services will be able to charge any astronomical price they choose.

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