Scottish Government accused of ‘irresponsible nationalism’ on transport review

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Scottish Secretary Alister Jack during the Conservative Party Conference (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack during the Conservative Party Conference (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Scotland Secretary Alister Jack has accused the Scottish Government of “irresponsible nationalism” for failing to get involved with a review of transport links.

Sir Peter Hendy the current chairman of Network Rail and former commissioner of Transport for London (TfL), will publish his Union connectivity review soon.

He was tasked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to examine transport infrastructure across the UK and consider where future spending could be targeted.

The Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, told his civil servants not to give Sir Peter any data or to engage with him whatsoever, which to me is irresponsible nationalism

Alister Jack

Mr Jack told the Conservative Party conference in Manchester: “It’s an incredibly important document to be published shortly.

“I’d say on a personal note I’m very dismayed the Scottish Government has not engaged in the Union connectivity review.

“The Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, told his civil servants not to give Sir Peter any data or to engage with him whatsoever, which to me is irresponsible nationalism.

“It’s putting their desire for separation, and not to be part of the United Kingdom, ahead of people’s livelihoods, ahead of jobs.”

Mr Jack claimed this was part of a “pattern” of behaviour from the Scottish Government, adding they did not engage with Westminster over other matters including the UK Internal Market Act.

This legislation set out how trade within the UK operates post-Brexit, but critics warned the Act represented a power grab by Westminster at the expense of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Government later made changes following several defeats in the House of Lords but the SNP continued to warn it would “demolish devolution”.

We’ll take no lectures on co-operation from a UK Government which recently ignored 19 separate requests for a ministerial meeting with the Scottish Government on a single issue

Michael Matheson

The Scottish Government has previously argued transport is devolved to Holyrood and asked the Conservatives to respect this rather than engage in a “power grab”.

A spokesman for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Secretary Mr Matheson said: “We’ll take no lectures on co-operation from a UK Government which recently ignored 19 separate requests for a ministerial meeting with the Scottish Government on a single issue.

“We will engage with the UK Government in Scotland’s best interests but we will not be complicit in Tory attempts at a power grab on the Scottish Parliament, or their bid to encourage a race to the bottom on workers’ rights and environmental standards.”

Elsewhere at Conservative Party Conference, there were harsh words from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace about the Scottish Government’s recent record on shipbuilding jobs.

In September, a nationalised shipyard in Scotland lost out on a contract to build new ferries for the Islay route, which is run by a company also owned by the Scottish Government.

Mr Wallace said: “The SNP had a chance to place a contract for a ship in Scotland only the other week.

“They actually own a yard, the Ferguson Yard, and they placed it in Romania. So there’s the SNP for you. Who needs enemies when you have got friends like that in the Scottish Government.”

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