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Connectivity: Scotland and the Rest of the UK

Volume 708: debated on Wednesday 2 February 2022

1. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on improving connectivity between Scotland and the rest of the UK. (905311)

Stirling has today submitted its bid to be the UK’s city of culture 2025. Winning the bid would bring investment and international attention to the town, and I am sure that every Scottish MP will join me in wishing Stirling the very best for the competition. As I am sure you are aware, Mr Speaker, today—2 February—is also Groundhog day. Of course, in Scotland, every day feels like Groundhog day with the SNP’s incessant calls for another independence referendum.

Turning to question No. 1, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart), and I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues about improving cross-border connectivity. The UK Government are currently considering the recommendations from the Union connectivity review and a formal response will be published shortly.

Does my right hon. Friend share my disappointment that the Scottish Government refused to engage with the Union connectivity review, and does he share my hope that these party political games will stop and that the Scottish Government will work with the UK Government to improve transport links for the people of Scotland, such as vital improvements to the A1 and the construction of the Borders railway to Carlisle?

I do share the disappointment that the Scottish Government did not engage in the Union connectivity review. In fact, the Cabinet Secretary for transport, Michael Matheson, instructed his civil servants not to engage with Sir Peter Hendy, the author of the review. But the UK Government have invited the Scottish Government to work closely in partnership to consider the recommendations and identify solutions that work best for all people in the United Kingdom.

There is no doubt that the UK Government speak a lot about improving connectivity with Scotland, but what is the Secretary of State specifically doing to improve connectivity between the UK Conservative Cabinet and what they refer to as the political lightweights of the Scottish Conservative party?

I am not quite sure how that is linked to connectivity, but as the hon. Member knows, not only do I support the Prime Minister in the role that he is carrying out, but I support our leader in Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross).

Rail links between England and Scotland are crucial in promoting regional interconnectivity not just to London, but to premier resorts such as mine of Southport. Would my right hon. Friend commit to meeting me so we can discuss putting the link back in through the Burscough curves to connect Southport better with Scotland?

Yes, I will meet my hon. Friend. I know that he has six beautiful golf courses in his area, so connectivity would be wonderful for us Scots, because we do enjoy a game of golf.

With the pandemic leading to more and more people looking to holiday in the UK, what discussions—notwithstanding the comments about the refusal of the Scottish Government—has the Secretary of State endeavoured to have with the Scottish Government about harnessing that new-found demand and supporting important transport hubs such as Edinburgh airport and Haymarket station in my constituency to facilitate improved connectivity?

As the hon. Lady will know, connectivity is important. It is not just about air; it is also about rail and road. We are very keen to improve connectivity because we realise that that leads to economic growth and improves people’s livelihoods. We are engaging with the Scottish Government in a spirit of good will with a view to improving connectivity for all parts of the United Kingdom.