SNP declined funding for rail investment says Alister Jack
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In a fiery debate on high-speed rail being extended to Scotland, SNP’s Mr Newlands asked: “By which year will high speech rail be extended to the Scottish border?” But Alister Jack MP mocked the question from the Scottish politician, pointing out offers for financial cooperations made to Holyrood had been rejected by his party. Mr Jack responded: “Which high-speed rail line did you have in mind?
“HS2 going north or the Galashiels coming south?
“Just wait until the outcome of the connectivity review which I have to say the SNP did not engage in.
“Not only that, rather irresponsibly your transport minister told his civil service officials, they couldn’t engage.
“Then when we offered £20million for feasibility studies, you declined it.”
His comments come a few days after Scotland’s Finance Secretary has clashed with the Scottish Tory leader after she claimed to have been “completely and intentionally excluded” from talks about investment in cross-border travel projects.
Ms Forbes claimed the Scottish Government ministers had been “cut out” of the UK Government’s Union Connectivity Review that proposes investment in transport infrastructure over the Scottish border.
But Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson reportedly blocked Transport Scotland from engaging with the review, having described it as a “systematic attack on the Scottish Parliament’s powers; a power-grab that fundamentally undermines devolution”.
The claims were denied by the Scotland Office minister, Iain Stewart, who insisted the UK Government had tried to engage with Holyrood over the review – which includes £20 million of funding for cross-border transport projects – but insisted they were “rebuffed” by SNP ministers.
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Mr Stewart said: “I have to say we have endeavoured to engage Scottish Government at every point of this, and we have met with considerable resistance.”
His comments came after Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, had pressed Ms Forbes on the issue – with the Scottish Finance Secretary stating: “The Union Connectivity Review was established without any consultation or discussion with Scotland.”
Giving evidence to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee, Ms Forbes contrasted the UK Government’s levelling up programme with the city deals being rolled out across Scotland and in the borders region, suggesting the latter had more “clarity, transparency and mutual respect”.
She said: “I think the city deals are a good example of what I fear is being eroded, and certainly has been eroded over the last year.
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“There is a clarity to the city deals, there is a framework to the city deals, and there is a mutual respect within the city deals, which is why I think they have been largely a success to date.”
Ms Forbes added: “City deals have demonstrated an effective way of working because there has been clarity, transparency, and mutual respect.
“That is somewhat juxtaposed with the approach that’s being taken now where we are certainly cut out of any of the knowledge about how the processes will work for levelling up or shared prosperity, which I think undermines all of our ability to make wise plans for investment.”
Mr Stewart insisted, however, that “every invitation we have made to the Scottish Government has been rebuffed”.
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