High-speed Rail

Scottish Executive Question Time — Finance and Sustainable Growth – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 7th October 2010.

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Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 2:15 pm, 7th October 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to support a high-speed rail link to Scotland. (S3O-11644)

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has pressed and will continue to press Scotland's case for inclusion in a United Kingdom high-speed rail network. We are actively engaging in discussions with the UK Government to that end.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

Does the minister agree that the northern section of the high-speed rail link from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh provides by far the best return on investment—the cost benefit ratio is around 7.6 to 1—because of the huge potential for modal shift from air to rail?

Can the minister enlighten us on the responsibilities that the Scottish Government has for supporting the project in Scotland? What steps has the Government taken, particularly since the debate in May, to scope the work at this end and to ensure that the option of starting the work from Glasgow, in parallel or association with the development from London, is firmly on the table?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I endorse absolutely what Robert Brown said in relation to the importance of the northern part of the HS2 network. Frankly, if the line does not come all the way to Scotland, the economic return and—fundamentally—the climate change impact that can be derived from getting people off planes and on to trains are much diminished. Of about 7 million journeys a year, just over 1 million are by train; most of the remaining journeys are by air. We have, of course, had input in the HS2 study. I will meet the UK Minister of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers, on 4 November, and this is one of the subjects that we will discuss.

Scottish ministers' powers are, strictly, to let the franchise for the ScotRail area; we are, of course, also responsible for investment in the infrastructure. We carry some responsibility, but we must work with colleagues south of the border to ensure a consistent and cohesive way forward. I share absolutely Robert Brown's aspirations.