SNP demands greater say over Scotland’s railways
July 19, 2012
Scotland should have greater devolved powers over rail, says Scottish cabinet secretary Alex Neil.
Frustration that UK legislation constrains service provision, despite record Scottish government railway investment, prompted a warning letter from Neil, cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, to UK transport secretary Justine Greening.
Neil called it ‘perverse’ and ‘verging on the ridiculous’ that state-owned companies from outside Great Britain can operate rail services in Scotland, but not home-grown public bodies.
‘As the analysis of the various outcomes from our Rail 2014 consultation progresses, I am growing increasingly concerned and frustrated at the extent to which the legislative framework, currently in place for rail across Great Britain, constrains the options which we are able to consider,’ he wrote.
Scottish ministers’ powers under the Railways Act 2005 are limited by broader rail legislation, in particular the Railways Act 1993, which privatised the rail industry. So, despite providing most of the funding, they have minimal say in operation, management and regulation and can only contract rail passenger services through a private sector franchise.
At the National Rail Conference in Liverpool in July, Neil strengthened his case by arguing that with major improvements to Scotland’s rail network, not linking HS2 to Scotland and the north of England from the very beginning would ‘haunt the UK Government for generations to come’. Involve Scotland in high speed rail from the outset or ‘face the financial consequences’, he said.
Neil also confirmed that Scotland will host a UK-wide High Speed Rail Summit in Glasgow this October, as momentum builds around the Scottish government-led campaign for full connectivity. Plans for this event have won support from CBI Scotland, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, trades unions and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, as well as London mayor Boris Johnson.