Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched the Union Connectivity Review to improve transport links across four home nations across the UK last year as part of his “levelling up agenda”. The review, led by Chairman of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy, will provide billions of pounds of cash for transport links between the different nations of the UK.
Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes claimed the Scottish Government were “intentionally excluded” from anything to do with the Review.
However, Scotland Office Minister Iain Stewart has rebuffed Ms Forbes allegations in a letter and “set the record straight”.
In the letter, Mr Stewart claimed numerous phone calls from UK Ministers were ignored by Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson and letters were not responded to.
The Minister added: “Sir Peter met [then- Transport Secretary Michael] Matheson twice to discuss the review… he has also been in contact with Scottish stakeholders, as well as politicians from across the parties, including the SNP.
“In June, last year, UK Transport Minister Baroness Vere tried to arrange a call with [Mr] Matheson when the UCR was announced. Mr Matheson was unavailable.
“UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps spoke with Mr Matheson ahead of the UCR’s formal launch in October last year, and the UK Government has made continual offers over the last 12 months, including a letter… which received no response.
“We subsequently were led to understand, via a meeting with Transport Scotland officials, that Scottish Government Ministers would not be engaging with the Union Connectivity Review or the development funding on offer.
“This has caused Scotland to be the only part of the UK to miss out on the opportunity to access this additional investment.”
READ MORE: Boris Johnson vows to take ‘bold’ decisions to make country stronger
SNP-led Scottish Government ministers will now miss out on £20m to fund new road projects north of the border, although UK Government officials insist the door remains open in case the Nats change their mind.
In compression, the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive are in talks over receiving a share of the cash.
Scottish Tories transport spokesman Graham Simpson MSP said: “The SNP ramped up their grievance machine and decided to exclude themselves from the Union Connectivity Review.
“The blame for vital funds not being received to upgrade vital routes and transport connections in Scotland lies firmly with the SNP.
“As usual, the SNP would rather play petty politics and leave Scotland short-changed, rather than accepting investment and new jobs as we recover from the pandemic.”
In response, a spokesperson for Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “’We’ll take no lectures from a UK Government which recently ignored 19 separate requests for a ministerial meeting with the Scottish Government on a single issue.”