As the momentum for a second independence referendum grows, Boris Johnson’s response is to continue to pile insult upon insult on Scotland and the government which overwhelmingly won May’s election.
The latest is to scrap the Prime Minister’s widely derided plan for a tunnel linking Scotland to Northern Ireland without any discussions with the Scottish parliament.
The latest plan had been described by an unnamed Westminster source as the world’s most stupid tunnel
The Financial Times reported yesterday that a Treasury crackdown on UK government spending had forced the cancellation of the project, which had originally been mooted as a bridge. The latest plan had been described by an unnamed Westminster source as “the world’s most stupid tunnel”.
A feasibility on the infrastructure scheme had been commissioned on behalf of the UK government by Sir Peter Hendy, who is leading its Union Connectivity Review.
Scotland Secretary Alister Jack has said he’s in favour of a tunnel option, telling reporters last year that he’d “had conversations along those lines with the Prime Minister”. The price tag on such a project has been estimated at anything from £15 billion to £33bn.
Neither the bridge nor the tunnel was a particularly popular idea. Back in March the Scottish government said that any such project would require close examination before it could even be considered.
“We are always keen to talk about how we can strengthen connections between Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” a spokesman said.
“There are an obvious number of practical obstacles and challenges to such a concept, and it would require a robust assessment of the costs or benefits of such a project in the first instance.”
Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson said on twitter this week that the shelving of the Irish Sea link would be “a wise decision”.
Mr Matheson had already described it as a “vanity project”, stating that the prospect of such a transport link is “not a priority for the Scottish government and it’s not a priority for the Northern Irish executive”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said this week: “Transport infrastructure is a devolved matter and the Union Connectivity Review was established without any meaningful discussion with devolved administrations. We seek to engage constructively with the UK Government, however, not in a way that undermines the devolution settlement.
A source at Holyrood said: ‘You’ll be amazed to learn we’ve had no official contact on this’
“The Scottish Government has not investigated or undertaken any feasibility for a fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland and has no current plans to do so. Transport Scotland are currently undertaking the second Strategic Transport Projects Review, which will inform the Scottish government’s future transport investment priorities.”
So Westminster had insulted the Scottish government by not taking it into consideration when floating the project and did so again when scrapping it. A source at Holyrood told the National newspaper this week: “You’ll be amazed to learn we’ve had no official contact on this.”
Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes and Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart have clashed over the Union Connectivity Review. Ms Forbes said the Scottish government had been “excluded from anything to do” with the report.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister continues to insult the Scottish government by continuing to deny its mandate for a second independence referendum.
In a speech to the SNP conference on Monday First Minister Nicola Surgeon reiterated the government plans to hold such a referendum in the current parliamentary term and preferably – if Covid allows – before the end of 2023.
But Boris Johnson dismissed her plan out of hand before she had even finished delivering her speech.
The Scottish government has already said it will hold the referendum with or without a section 30 agreement with Westminster.