Scotland could miss out on £20m for road and rail links

Scotland Office minister David Duguid hit out at the 'lack of engagement' from Nicola Sturgeon’s government to the Union Connectivity Review (UCR).

Scotland could miss out on £20m for road and rail links iStock

Scotland could miss out on £20m to help boost road and rail links because of the “disappointing” response from Holyrood ministers to a nationwide transport review, it has been claimed.

Scotland Office minister David Duguid hit out at the “lack of engagement” from Nicola Sturgeon’s government to the Union Connectivity Review (UCR).

The review, being led by Sir Peter Hendy – the current chairman of Network Rail and former commissioner of Transport for London (TfL) – will look at transport infrastructure across the UK, considering where future spending could be targeted.

At the end of June, the UK Government promised £100m would be invested across England to improve the quality of local roads – helping local economies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Duguid said to “jump-start” some of the projects already identified by the review, the UK Government had made £20m development funding available for “some of the road and rail schemes that the review considers crucial for cross-border connectivity”.

But the Conservative minister hit out: “The lack of engagement from the Scottish Government on the Union Connectivity Review thus far is disappointing.

“The people of Scotland are set to miss out on the benefits of this £20m interim funding which could improve their day-to-day lives, something for which we all should be striving for.”

He told SNP ministers: “Failing to engage when there is funding on the table risks leaving Scotland at a standstill.”

Duguid, who was speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum, stressed the UK Government was aware how transport links were “vital to economic growth, job creation and social cohesion”.

In a bid to ensure that the “whole of the UK is firing on all cylinders” as the country seeks to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, he said taking forward proposals from the Union Connectivity Review would be key.

Duguid said ministers in Whitehall would “stand ready to work together with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to consider the recommendations of the UCR once they are published”.

With Sir Peter to publish his final recommendations later in the year, the minister added: “It is important that we work together so the benefits of this review can truly be felt across the entire United Kingdom.

“I look forward to the final report being published later this year and working across Governments to make these recommendations a reality.”

A spokesman for Scotland’s transport minister Graeme Dey said: “Transport is devolved to Holyrood and the Tories should respect that, instead of engaging in a power grab which has seen them promise much but deliver little in reality.

“The so-called Union Connectivity Review was established without any discussion and consultation with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Scotland needs an infrastructure-led economic recovery to deliver new jobs and speed up the transition to net-zero – something the Tories are undermining with their cuts to our capital budget in the UK Spending Review for 2021-22.”