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by Louise Wilson
02 December 2021
Nicola Sturgeon accuses UK Government of transport ‘power grab’

The A75 is a key connection for the port at Cairnryan, south west Scotland | Adobe Stock

Nicola Sturgeon accuses UK Government of transport ‘power grab’

The First Minister has accused the UK government of making a “power grab” over transport following the publication of the Union Connectivity Review last week.

She accused UK ministers of encroaching on devolved powers “for political reasons”.

The review, led by Network Rail’s chair Sir Peter Hendry, backed investment in cross-border rail connections, as well as the A1 and A75.

It also recommended that the UK government establish a strategic transport network, dubbed UKNET, to highlight priority areas for transport infrastructure improvements across the whole of the UK.

But the review has created some friction between the two governments given transport has been devolved since the Scottish Parliament was created in 1999.

In answer to a question from Tory transport spokesperson Graham Simpson at FMQs, Nicola Sturgeon said there was not much in the review for Scotland.

She added: “What there is in it is an attempted power grab, taking decisions around priorities away from Scottish ministers with a suggestion of funding improvements on one route being dangled in front of us.

“If UK ministers really want to be helpful, why don’t they just deliver the funding needed for infrastructure investment in line with the established budgetary mechanisms for Scotland so that this democratically elected parliament can determine our own spending priorities in line with the devolution settlement?”

Simpson suggested the First Minister “hasn’t read a word” of the review, insisting it “does nothing that she is suggesting that it does”.

He called on both governments to work together on strategic improvements, including shorter rail journey times between Scotland and London.

Sturgeon replied that while she would work with her UK counterparts in areas of “mutual benefit”, it was not clear the UK government was providing new money for any of the proposals included in the review.

Speaking when the review was published last Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the strengthening transport connections was “critical to maximise the potential for growth and jobs.”

Both the Scottish Government and the Department for Transport are currently considering the report’s recommendations in full.

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