Monday, 28 October 2013

Scotland and HS2

HS2? What is it?

Basically its a new  'High Speed' rail line planned for England, it's planned start point will be London Euston - phase one will terminate at Birmingham while phase two will see the line snaking its way to Leeds and Wigan.

I mention it for two reasons, the first far less bothersome than the second - its mentioned on the BBC's online news page for Scotland...

Years of Disruption. It goes without saying...
... and its going to cost in total £42.6 billion - yes, BILLION - of which Scotland will be paying a per capita share of £4.8 Billion. (I took the liberty of rounding the figure up, I think its safe to do that since the estimated cost of the project will no doubt rise anyway.)

For the avoidance of doubt.

Illustrated most ably by the map from the BBC's web page, HS2 doesn't go much further north than Leeds. Leeds isn't in Scotland, heck, Scotland isn't even shown on the map the BBC chose to use in their story and yet - to paraphrase Alan Bissett - 'but you'll pay for it, you'll pay for it'. 

Transport is devolved to Holyrood, the current Minister for Transport is Keith Brown, his budget comes from the block grant which in turn is worked out with the Barnett Formula - no yawning at the back - HS2 on the other hand is supposed to benefit the entire UK so Scotland won't receive an equivalent per capita share of this transport spending (which is how Barnett is supposed to work.)

(Very quickly: Barnett is a fag packet calculation on how Holyrood and its devolved responsibilities are funded. Put simply, if Westminster spent £100 on paperclips for England, Scotland - with ~9% of the population - would get £9 to spend on paperclips , or what ever we thought best suited our paper-collation needs. This is horrifically over-simplified, but I'd challenge anyone to try and make sense of the wiki page on the subject. If you do figure it out, please clue me in.)

Same as it did for London's new 'super sewage system' costing £4.2 Billion. Scotland should have got something in the region of £400 million in line with Barnett, instead though, we got to pay our per capita share of a sewage system 560 miles away from Inverness.

If Westminster decides a project will benefit the entire UK, instead of Scotland getting its per-head share of spending, it gets a per-head bill instead.

Not only will you and your kids be paying for a railway line which comes no where near Scotland - recently, an unintended consequence was discovered - not only will people in Scotland be paying for it, we'll be penalised by it. 

That Aberdeen (for example) could lose out to the tune of £220m - this is to do with companies potentially choosing to locate to areas served by HS2 instead of the North East of Scotland - wouldn't have seen the light of day were it not for an FOI request passed over to the BBC, (sometimes they do their job.)

Only under the current Westminster arrangement is it possible for a person living and working in Dundee say, to be paying for a train line in England which will potentially cause the company they work for to relocate or for future job opportunities to evaporate because of that self-same train line Westminster forced them to pay for.

Indeed, it seems, if you live in Scotland and want something approaching your fair share of the tax revenues you contribute to the UK's coffers - you need to visit London for a dump. 

Not wishing to sound dramatic about this but, there must a few jowly old men in clubs around London - pigs snuffling at the trough of the British Hyena State - laughing like drains over brandy and cigars. They are simultaneously taking the piss with London's new super sewage upgrade which Scotland helped pay for and taking Scotland for a ride with it's massively costly, doubtfully beneficial new high speed train set.

What more do people need to know for next September and why - seriously - why would you vote to maintain this iniquitous settlement?

* Edit for clarity. It isn't wrong to say the rail line will come no where near Scotland - it won't, at least not until the nebulous phase 3. The trains however, according to the HS2 website, will continue 'seamlessly' onto the East Coast Line (for example) to Edinburgh - one assumes the trains won't be able to travel at the same break neck speeds that it does south of Leeds. Its a fine point, we're still paying for a rail line in England, Scotland's benefit will by in the form of time saved when the train gets onto the new line at Leeds.

It's still not blowing my skirt up.


  1. Either you are deliberately mis-representing the facts or are ignorant of them. HS2 trains will continue directly on existing track to Scotland, saving 30 mins to Glasgow and 45 mins to Edinburgh (including a stop at Cairatairs).

    Further upgrades north of Leeds/Wigan and on the Scottish side in a future phase 3, will reduce the Edinburgh/Glasgow to London journey time below the 3hr mark.

    Journey times and capacity between Scotland and England's Midlands and North will be similarly improved.

    The new track doesn't have to be on the Scotish side of the border for Scotland to benefit. An independent Scotland would have even more to gain from fast connections to England and Europe (via the Chunnel) than it does now. Your approach to cut Scotland off from its economically far larger neighbours is immature and intellectually illiterate at best.

  2. I'm calling bollocks.

    Existing tracks you say, fair enough. Seems like a worthy investment, that tax payers in Scotland should pay for an infrastructure upgrade in another part of the UK for a time saving of some 53 minutes (best case scenario) on a journey to London. Already aspersions are being cast on just how beneficial the entire project will be.

    As for Phase 3? The way things are going, they'll be lucky to get phases 1 & 2 off the ground. What we'll up with is new infrastructure in England paid for with help from the rest of the UK, (who's subsidising who here?) While regions and cities near to HS2 flourish (allegedly,) towns and cities no where near the new line will lose out.

    You skip lightly over the losses that may be sustained by Scottish cities too.

    As for my 'approach' - as usual the aim of self-determination is missed. Its got nothing to do with 'cutting off' neighbours and everything to do with doing what best benefits Scotland's economy and those of our neighbours.

    You'd no doubt moan about my turning this into something about independence, but it simply is about independence. I don't for one millionth of one millisecond believe Westminster would harm its own vote in favour of doing something that benefits a demographic that enthusiastically rejects them.

    I never claim to be mature or literate, I try at all times to be realistic though.

    You should try it.

  3. These infrastructure projects, including the 'Limpics are designated UK projects and are not subject to the Barnett formula.

    In fact think of the Dome, the 2000 fiasco, the Crossrail line, the London sewer upgrade and Boris Johnson were all designated as UK projects which did not involve capital allocation to the SE of England in the Treasury Accounts.

    However the National Grid, which charges access to suppliers charges these suppliers a volume pay-in per unit based on distance from London. Yes, those closest to London get a fee paid to them for using the N Grid.

    I wonder whether the Interconnector between France and the SE England are charged based on distance from London, say the Agen Nuclear Station, near Toulouse, or it is all based on the distance between Calais and Dover?

    Anybody here can conform the Electricity cost to the consumer in London is lower per unit than in Aberdeen or Glasgow, where it is generated and colder in Winter?

    It was something similar for the cost of a "truck" call to London on the old BT network than a call twixt Aberdeen and Glasgow, despite the fact that the rate determining step for costing is in fact the number of costly switching stations, which because of the urban geography necessitates more switching stations per unit distance than the long jumps from Glasgow to London.
    The internet stuffed that nice wee earner.
    Independence will stuff the N Grid one.

    Another hidden SE England subsidy

  4. I would also say, in Scotland, we might want to develop our own transport hubs. Obviously won't be digging any new tunnels to Europe but why should people travelling to or from Scotland be shuttled through English ports or stations?

    Last time I checked, a lot of the time air travel was cheaper than rail anyway. Some might say making rail travel quicker makes it more attractive but if you're paying through the nose...

    I can understand Westminster - if we did vote yes - wanting to continue having people transiting through English ports to get to Scotland. But that wouldn't exactly be in Scotland's best interests would it?

  5. Hello Urchin (not sure how to refer to you :-)

    I was going to mention the National Grid, its the closest analogy.

    Another analogy I suppose would be asking council tax payers in Stirling to cough up a per capita share for the trams in Edinburgh (OH YES - I WENT THERE ;-) I mean, the trams sort of go toward Stirling don't they?


  6. pa_broon74

    Just call be Bugger (the Panda).

    The reason Wordpress calls me IBSU is a very long story

  7. Once independent we can afford to improve our own rail links :) I hope for better transport nationally and locally. Also I hope we can curtail the power of nasty companies like First who seem to be getting a pretty good monopoly on travel in certain areas of Scotland. Do you think we could ever make a return to real 'public' transport?

    Really like your blog. Keep up the good work!

  8. Thanks Hannah.

    I'm not sure what's best for public transport, there are things the private sector does do well - the sink-or-swim aspect allows for swift decision making although it also can lead to some pretty shoddy treatment for the work force. I think a balance between the two with the state holding a controlling interest and the private sector having access to the remainder.

    No idea how that would work in practice right enough. As you say, without independence, we'll never get to decide for ourselves and for me, that is the entire point.


    The penny drops. ;-)

    Really appreciate all the comments, thanks again for taking the time folks.


  9. This is about London and getting people from the north of England to London quicker and encouraging firms to set up in certain parts of the north of England. Scotland will not benefit from this at all, we'll pay for a part of it if we vote no next year but we will not benfit from it. It is also a huge waste of money, like trident and the British Olympics, sorry London and the British sewer system , oh sorry London. Do Londoners actually pay for anything themselves without our taxes or our lottery money.


  10. Agreed.

    Like I said to Will up there,I just don't believe Westminster would deliberately do something which benefits a part of the UK that could well leave.

    Nor do I trust them with these 'UK-wide' projects which are supposed to benefit all of the UK. I cannot see how a sewage system in London will mean someone in Oban will be able to go to the bog with a more peaceful mind.

    More over, I think its about transport hubs too, when independent, we'll prefer people to come straight here, not be held hostage at some 'London' airport or train station.

    Anyway, for Westminster, I think this'll be their Tram fiasco - on steroids.


  11. The purpose of HS2 is similar to high speed rail in Japan or France. Namely, getting people to and from the major city quicker. Whether that is London, Tokyo or Paris. In Britain! the geography is north / south, with the major city in the south. Obviously at the moment, the north includes Edinburgh and Glasgow and it makes sense to continue the lines there. Yes, I know Aberdeen is further north, but in don't think anybody is proposing laying high speed rail everywhere. Cardiff for example. Dundee. Bristol. Norwich.

    So a UK government would have high speed rail extending to major cities in the north of the UK. At the moment that's Edinburgh and Glasgow. If the SNP win their vote, that would be Leeds and Manchester. Maybe Newcastle.

  12. Anonymous

    You haven't read the comments section otherwise you would know why the project is just a load of piss and vinegar.

    I don't think it will be built and when Scotland votes Yes where will you find the money from it. I suppose there is always the Chinese, who will be building a nuclear power station in England. Good luck with that as it is also on a flood plain.

    Thanks for your well meaning and instructive, but naïve contribution.

    This thread like Scotland has moved on. You have a lot of catching up to do.

  13. I read the comments, Urchin, and was about to highlight the cringing that some caused. However, your further addendum has certainly settled that worry! I'm not sure if "piss and vinegar" is a recognised engineering term, but the reading I've done on the project is mainly from that perspective, much as your valuable insight does add to the discussion.

    The point remains that it is a UK project. If you disagree with it, what's the point complaining that it doesn't go here or there. If you do agree with it, but also want "independence", find out what plans the SNP has for Scottish high speed rail outside the UK.

    But don't pretend that travel to / from London wouldn't continue to be important to Scotland in an SNP state. That's just silly!

    If you feel the hread has moved on, and you've already highlighted that in your most recent post, there's no need for any further posts from you

  14. To Urchin- Scotland hasn't "moved on". That's precisely the problem. Hopefully it will be able to come September 2014, one way or another.

  15. Dundee 1

    I meant the debate and our understanding of the points made by the unionists and their debunking, basically by sites like this. The rediffusion of that is the real problem.

    Hopefully the foot soldiers phase will be the killer blow for the Yes side.

  16. Anonymous

    For nearly thirty years I worked all over the World and did so by flying to Amsterdam and onwards.

    There will be many who wish or need to travel south by road, often just to get the ferry ports in England.

    I think we would need better ferry connections to the European mainland.

    Anyway, these are all things for the future, after the referendum.

    The Referendum in 2014 is not a general election although you are conflating a decision of who it better placed to take decisions on Scotland's future, Holyrood or Westminster and whop should which party should govern and what would be their policies.

    The vote is about the former and after that which decisions we will take and in which direction would be the Scottish people to decide not Westminster.

    Please do not conflate the two.

  17. As someone whose family is spread throughout the UK, drawing an international border between them isn't something I view as an improvement, so I cannot share your views on that. Whatever the outcome of the vote, it's clear divisions have already taken place within Scotland, and I'm not sure the image of "foot soldiers" improves that. It smells rather like, agree with us or else. Perhaps these will be the same people who were particularly unkind to David Bowie for daring to voice an opinion that was shared by the ruling nationalists?

    However, I really cannot understand the tone of glee in your posts when it comes to considering the prospect of England (and Wales and Ni) suffering in some way through National Grid problems or funding major projects. The SNP would have us believe we'd be closer and more friendly to our "neighbours" by voting to separate from them, and that nobody amongst their supporters displays any sort of anglophobia whatsoever.

    I do agree with you though, that we should all be hopeful that the final phase of all this is the "killer blow" (I'd use less emotive terms myself) to the Yes vote.

    But, and returning to the trains this is supposed to be about, if it isn't, why would a major rail project in a disliked foreign country be of any concern at all.

  18. typo

    and whop should which party should

    drop the and whop should

  19. this is the "killer blow" (I'd use less emotive terms myself) to the Yes vote.

    Was that your typo?

  20. ... And still you are going, Congratulations on your travelling history- very impressive no doubt.

    Thank you for putting me in place for conflating things.

    I am very keen for my country to survive and to invest in the future (that's the Uk and the notion of major infrastructure improvements by the way) so I suppose it's easily done.

    However, I see you are a keen debater and last-worded, so I'll best leave it there.

    (No doubt you'll have something further to add, and I promise to at least try and read it at some point next year).

  21. No at all. The typo was in the Bowie sentence. "Was" should read "wasn't".

  22. Well gosh.

    Look at all these comments.

    I don't have anything to add although I would point out I don't think there are many nationalists (or people who will be voting yes) who wish ill on our neighbours - if we're talking about glee I think unionists should look a wee bit closer to home - the Daily Mail could well change its name to the Daily Glee on some days. When it comes to wishing ill, I think George Osborne is the man to ask, by 'ruling out' a currency union, its not us people in England want to worry about.

    The only other thing to say is, HS2 is a good idea theoretically, but, and this is a big but - when the (Westminster) government refer to 'the north' they don't mean Scotland, they mean the north of England.

    The proof will be in the eating of the pudding (so to speak.) I don't believe it'll get past Leeds, if it did though - since transport is devolved, I wonder where the money for Scottish upgrades would be found if its a 'no' in September?

    Theoretically of course, I don't believe we'll be daft enough to vote no.

    PS: And can we leave the 'international border' chat at the door? Its pointless scaremongering and one of the most debunked subjects in the debate.


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?