Danny Alexander under fire after claims he misrepresented transport organisation

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
The UK’s Treasury Minister Danny Alexander is facing accusations of misrepresentation after making a series of claims about the effects of the independence referendum on the Scottish and UK economies.
 
The Lib Dem MP is under attack after claiming that Transport Scotland saw the independence referendum “as an issue” that would adversely affect Scotland’s rail franchises.

When asked to provide examples of how the independence referendum was harming the economy Mr Alexander said: “… most strikingly of all last week we heard from Transport Scotland which is one of the Scottish government’s own quangos saying that they thought that they’d have to issue shorter franchises in future because of the constitutional uncertainty.

“…and so it is quite extraordinary in a sense that you have got one of the Scottish government’s own organisations themselves saying that they see it as an issue,”

However a spokesman for the organisation has hit back saying that the reference to independence contained in the consultation document was in fact positive on the effects of possible constitutional change.

In a statement, a Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The reference to constitutional change in the consultation is a positive one.

“Constitutional change would enable the Scottish government to develop a rail franchise that offers real opportunities to achieve more for Scotland – with more borrowing powers, more responsibilities for cross-border rail, and more progress over high speed rail.”

The public rebuke will be embarrassing for the senior Lib Dem MP who also blundered when referring to the widely discredited Citigroup report – that claimed that investing in Scottish renewables was ‘dangerous’ – only to then bizarrely dismiss the claim saying: “That’s a claim that I reject.”

He also claimed that comments from Unionist leaning lobbying group, CBI Scotland, were further ‘evidence’ of damage caused by the referendum.

Mr Alexander denied claims that his own party’s home rule aims could lead to the same ‘constitutional uncertainty’ and appeared to second guess the outcome of former Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell’s home rule commission when he said: “The only people who want a referendum and want to change Scotland’s constitutional status … is the Scottish National Party”.

The SNP has responded by describing Mr Alexander’s comments as yet another example of the disarray amongst opposition politicians over a referendum on independence.

SNP MSP and Economy Committee member Chic Brodie said:

“The coalition’s scaremongering has finally collapsed.  Danny Alexander’s ludicrous efforts to use a consultation on rail services as a constitutional argument have backfired badly as more powers would create opportunities for investment in new rail services with borrowing powers and more responsibility on cross border routes and high speed rail.

“Mr Alexander has waded into this conversation even though it is only the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne who can fully answer the questions posed by John Swinney.  This shows how easily lobbied the Lib Dems are by the Tories to attack Scotland.

“It is clear the respect agenda for Scotland has been shredded. The people of Scotland deserve better than these kinds of negative remarks from Tory and Lib Dem politicians.”

Mr Alexander was speaking on BBC Radio Scotland following the publication of a letter in which he claimed that Scotland’s independence referendum was damaging the UK economy. 

The letter was in response to correspondence from Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney, covered prominently by Newsnet Scotland one week ago, challenging claims made by Tory Chancellor George Osborne.

Mr Osborne had said: “…there are major businesses around the world who have asked me as chancellor in the last year ‘tell us what is going on in Scotland – we’re worried about making an investment in that country’ “

However, when pressed, Mr Osborne refused to reveal the names of the firms who had spoken to him.

Mr Swinney had accused the Chancellor’s comments as “being at variance with the facts” and had cited evidence suggesting that the Tory attacks were politically motivated and may have been prompted by lobbying from a senior Tory mayor in the north east of England who was worried about Scotland’s success in attracting inward investment.

 

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