SNP condemn Lib Dem’s High Speed Hypocrisy

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by a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has condemned Danny Alexander and Michael Moore for their hypocrisy over feigning support for cross border services while their Tory-Lib Dem coalition refuse to bring High Speed Rail services to Scotland in this generation.

On 20 May 2010, as Mr Alexander took his place in the Coalition government as the Scotland Secretary, the Lib Dem MP used his website to detail the “real benefits” that the Coalition would “deliver for the Highlands”.  Amongst the “benefits” which Mr Alexander’s constituents would receive was a commitment to High Speed Rail and an announcement that Mr Alexander was leading discussions on the matter.

After a short time in the post of Scotland Secretary, the Lib Dem MP was promoted to the post of Treasury Secretary after colleague David Laws was forced to resign in disgrace over expenses claims.  On receiving his promotion, Mr Alexander appears to have forgotten his commitment to bring High Speed rail to Scotland.

In July 2011, Mr Alexander’s replacement as Scotland Secretary, Michael Moore, stated in an answer to a question put to him in the House of Commons:  “The Government remain committed to a truly national high-speed rail network, which will be delivered in phases. I met with the Secretary of State for Transport on 13 July and discussed a range of issues, including new high-speed rail services for Scotland.”

However following Transport Secretary Justine Greening’s announcement earlier this week, it has now come to light that the UK Government only proposes to consider extension of the High Speed Rail line to Scotland after the hybrid bill stages for London-Birmingham or Birmingham-Manchester are established.  This means that there is now no commitment from the Westminster Coalition to construct a truly UK wide High Speed network, only a vague promise to “consider” it at some point in the future.

SNP MSP John Finnie said this highlights the “blatant hypocrisy” of the two Scottish MPs who have both claimed Lib Dem backing for cross-border rail in the past.

Mr Finnie, Highlands and Islands MSP, said:

“It is blatant hypocrisy from Mr Alexander and Mr Moore to do nothing as their Tory-Lib Dem government refuses to commit to extending the high speed rail link to Scotland after previously repeatedly stating their own support for cross border services.

“Where exactly do they stand on this?  What representations – if any – did either make on the matter?

“The first phase is going to take 15 to 20 years to complete while Scotland is left on the sidelines.  I don’t think this is the right decision for Scotland, ruling out the extension to Scotland for a generation, but the Lib Dem position is unclear.  One minute they are in favour of it, the next they say nothing as their coalition refuses to commit to anything for the next two decades.

“We need to know if they voted to exclude Scotland in the cabinet and we need answers to these questions now as both Mr Alexander and Mr Moore are confusing the people of Scotland with their conflicting approaches.

“If either of these Scottish MPs are really fighting for their Scottish constituents then they need to return to Westminster and urge their Tory-Lib Dem government to rethink its position on high speed rail.

“This would transform travel in the UK and would generate huge economic benefits for business while bringing real benefits to the environment by reducing the number of damaging short-haul flights from Scotland to London.”