A senior Aberdeenshire councillor has expressed disappointment that SNP councillors refused to support a report calling on the Scottish Government to give greater priority to the vital infrastructure needs of the north east of Scotland.
At a meeting on Thursday last week, the Council was asked to consider its response to the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3), published by ministers on 14th January. The NPF3 document provides a framework for development across the whole of Scotland, together with the government’s priorities for the next 20 or 30 years.
It also identifies nationally important developments to support its approach, including carbon capture and storage at Peterhead, improvements at Aberdeen airport and the project to develop Aberdeen harbour.
Whilst welcoming many aspects of NPF3, the Council’s response raised concerns over the lack of detailed actions to deliver the infrastructure necessary to support the levels of growth envisioned by Scottish ministers, particularly in the north east.
The report also highlighted concerns previously raised by the council and by Nestrans over the priority being given to a project to develop high speed rail between Edinburgh and Glasgow, rather than to improving journey times between the north east and the central belt.
Commenting, Cllr Peter Argyle, chair of the Infrastructure Services Committee, said, “I was absolutely astonished that the SNP group failed to back a report calling for greater priority to be given to rail links to and from the north east, rather than this unnecessary and uncosted high speed rail project.
“The Scottish Government is already spending £650m on rail improvements between Edinburgh and Glasgow, to reduce journey times by an estimated 8 minutes and increase capacity. High speed rail coming on top of this investment would be a luxury Scotland cannot afford at this stage, certainly not in isolation from the wider UK high speed rail project.
“We urgently need Scottish Government investment to improve journey times between Aberdeen and the central belt. Taking almost three hours to travel by rail from the economic powerhouse of Scotland to the central belt is inadequate in the 21st century. While there are still sections of single track around Montrose, including high speed rail in NPF3 as a priority National Development simply cannot be justified.
“It is a sad fact that of the £2.6bn of capital transport projects underway across Scotland today, none are in the north east. Indeed, the last Scottish Government project to be completed in our area was Laurencekirk station, way back in 2007. It is disappointing that the SNP failed to support the Aberdeenshire community on this issue and instead wanted to back the inclusion of this high speed project.”
Stonehaven Councillor, Peter Bellarby, added: “Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire is the economic centre piece of Scotland. This is where considerable growth is expected in the coming years. We need the infrastructure to match this and that includes transport. The railway journey to the central belt needs to be faster and one thing that would contribute to achieving this would be electrification. The journey time across Fife is particularly slow and attention needs to be paid to the railway infrastructure there as well.”
Following debate and a vote, the Aberdeenshire Alliance proposal to endorse the response was agreed and it will now be forwarded to the Scottish Government.
From:: Peter Bellarby