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Caledonian Sleeper Train

Volume 561: debated on Wednesday 24 April 2013

2. What discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on the future of the Caledonian sleeper train. (150799)

The UK Government provided £50 million to safeguard and improve the Caledonian sleeper service in 2011. Responsibility for taking the project forward is now with the Scottish Government. We look forward finally to seeing some progress.

I am pleased that the Government have invested in the future of the Caledonian sleeper, which is a vital transport link for business and tourism alike, but does my right hon. Friend share my disappointment that the Scottish Government have not shown the same urgency on upgrading that vital link?

I agree with my hon. Friend. He might be aware that, since the spending review, the Scottish Government have received over £1 billion in additional funding for what they said were shovel-ready projects, but the only shovelling of which they seem capable is digging the sort of hole that we saw yesterday regarding the currency.

The Scottish National party Government have in fact invested £130 million in the sleeper service—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson) wants to be quiet, he can be. The SNP Government understand the importance of linking mega-regions, which has been identified by Professor Richard Florida as a win-win for all concerned. In Spain, the linking of Seville to Madrid has benefited not only Seville as intended, but Madrid far more. With the sleeper service maintained to Inverness and Fort William, when will the UK Government ensure that there are high-speed links and landing slots at Heathrow to maintain full connectivity between mega-regions, because we want England, in particular, to keep pace with Scottish prosperity post independence?

The Government are committed to ensuring that there is connectivity within the United Kingdom, just as they are committed to ensuring that we stay a United Kingdom.

Has my right hon. Friend considered that the sleeper service might be better served if there were electrification of the east coast main line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen? Coincidentally, that passes through my constituency, and the project would provide a better service for the stations of Ladybank, Cupar and Leuchars.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is rightly always keen to promote his constituency interests, but he will be aware that that was one of the many projects that the Scottish National party said in opposition it would deliver—yet it does not seem to be on the agenda any more.

Does the Minister accept that the Caledonian sleeper is a vital link between the Ministry of Defence in London and the shipyards on the Clyde? Does he accept that trade on the Caledonian sleeper will drastically reduce in the event that we have separation and the Clyde shipyards close?

What I accept is that if we were to have separation, there would be a great deal of uncertainty, and not just for the operators of the Caledonian sleeper service. As we saw yesterday, for example, those promoting independence have no idea what currency would be used in an independent Scotland, which will be a significant factor in creating additional uncertainty.