An independent Scotland needs, as a matter of urgency, a future-proofed, fully integrated and coordinated Transport strategy to cover road, rail, airports and marine.
I submitted a motion on this topic to Alba National Council last weekend, calling for the establishment of a working group for Transportation matters to develop a Transport strategy for an independent Scotland. This would then become policy. I am delighted to say that the motion was passed unanimously.
Why is this important?
It is now universally accepted that after independence Scotland will be a wealthy country. Even Murdo Fraser, (the own goal king), lamented that England would be much poorer when Scotland walked away with her wealth, assets, and resources.
However, a country’s wealth is only relevant if it is used to raise the living standards of the very poorest among us and to improve the quality of life for the entire population.
A modern, efficient transport strategy, although requiring initial investment can deliver massive ongoing savings, can provide a boost to the economy, and can greatly improve the quality of life in Scotland.
Transportation in all its forms impacts on everyone’s daily lives in a massive way:
Roads, railways, airplanes and marine transport are all utilised to transport people to work, to hospital, on vacation or to visit relatives etc but they are also utilised to transport goods and services. However, they are neither modern, nor integrated nor coordinated nor efficient.
As a Chartered Engineer with over 45 years’ experience across the globe, much of it in Transportation, I have ideas as to how we can achieve an efficient, modern Transportation Strategy but it would be wrong of me to pre-empt the role of the working group, nonetheless, I will put a few ideas out there:
- There are far too many large lorries on our roads. These are responsible for the the majority of damage and thus a large proportion of road maintenance costs.
- Most of the large supermarkets adopt a Centralised Distribution System, with almost all their distribution warehouses in England. They have even engaged expert economists to extol the benefits of this system. Benefits for whom? You may ask. The supermarket chains obviously – certainly not the consumers, and certainly not the environment.
- What is happening in practice is that they are buying up produce from farms etc. They are driven in very large hgv lorries down to one of their warehouses in England, packaged in a union jack wrapper and brought back by lorry to Scotland. This is a ridiculous waste of energy and is very environmentally unfriendly. Why are the Greens not all over this?
- In the interest of health, quality, cost and the environment, food should go from producer to market to consumer in as short a time as possible and over as short a distance as possible.
- The SNP and the Greens are continually guilt tripping individuals into reducing their carbon footprints and are actively trying to encourage people to stretch their finances to buy an electric car.
- We never hear any condemnation of the way haulage companies operate nor is there ever any suggestion that the supermarket chains with their huge fleets of lorries should switch to electric vehicles.
- This is corporate capitalism at its worst.
- Shame on the supermarket chains and shame on the SNP / Greens for ignoring it.
- There should be a massive shift in transportation of goods and produce away from the road network and onto the rail network. This would require a considerable upgrade with many tracks being doubled up and hubs being built to transfer the goods from trains to smaller lorries for local distribution.
- Goods where delivery time is not critical can be shipped around the Scottish coast and to the islands utilising our ports, which should be taken into National ownership.
- Incidentally, I believe that our road network, rail network, ports and airports should all be taken into public ownership. This would allow for better coordination and integration of all forms of transport.
- This would also facilitate universal ticketing which brings me to a suggested proposal for Scottish ferries. I agree with all that has been written by Kenny MacAskill, Professor Alf Baird etc about the need to modernise the fleet of car ferries around Scotland by upgrading to faster, much safer catamaran ferries. However, from my experience living and working in Brisbane and Auckland I think there is also a need for smaller, fast-cats, passenger only ferries. These could operate in island hopping and across the firths of Clyde and Forth.
- One practical example could be a fast cat passenger ferry from Kirkcaldy to Leith. Commuters working in Edinburgh, using their universal ticket would tap on and off the ferry, jump on the tram or a bus to the city, tapping on and off with the same ticket, which could also be used on the train network.
- Regarding air travel, I believe that consideration should be given to the establishment of an air hub by the creation of a new airport, perhaps in a location previously suggested north of Falkirk. This would be on the great circle route for many southern European passengers travelling to the US. This could prove more attractive than travelling through London.
- Finally, the national transport agency for Scotland, Transport Scotland, is only responsible for the road network – well actually only trunk roads. A new transportation agency should be established with responsibility for roads, rail, air travel and marine for all of Scotland.
- As I mentioned, these are my personal suggestions, but I would like to think that some of them at least would be given consideration by the new Alba Transport Working Group.
An independent Scotland must have a modern, sustainable, fully integrated and coordinated transportation system which serves the people and not large corporations. It must be on a par with other European countries.