Scotland’s Connections and its Governance
Scotland’s Connections and its Governance – The Independence Debate: Does Transport Figure (PDF).
Prepared by John Baggaley, with significant contributions from David Connolly and Derek Halden.
This paper highlights some of these issues surrounding regulation, ownership, safety, competition, distribution of funding, social issues, and sustainability, where the benefits or otherwise of further constitutional change could be realised.
It is now 21 months since our paper reviewing the governance options yet the main points of this occasional paper seem apt to the impending independence referendum. In December 2013 we noted that it was surprising that there was so little debate about the opportunities for Scotland to develop better transport through greater autonomy from UK. This seems to have continued through the referendum campaign. Perhaps this is because the transport powers given to Scotland have been changed more times since devolution than for virtually any other sector. It may be that there is an unwritten assumption that if there is a good case for a transport power or tax to be devolved then it is likely to proceed regardless of independence.
Yet with nearly £4bn in tax receipts from transport in Scotland the sector contributes substantially to the areas of public spending dominating the independence debate. If the decisions about transport in Scotland were made solely by the people of Scotland then there is very little evidence available about what might change and how this would affect taxation revenue. On average the people of Scotland spend more on transport than they spend on housing or food, so perhaps the referendum campaign shows us that politicians may be a little scared of this sector where people spend so much of their hard earned cash.
As set out in our think piece in December 2013, there does not seem to be much in transport that we might want to deliver in transport that could not be delivered either through greater devolution or through independence. The way that people will vote is less about transport than about whether Scottish social values are better enjoyed separately or tempered with the social values from elsewhere in the UK. Whichever option Scotland chooses there will be a need for much greater clarity in Scottish transport policy about how the big challenges ahead will be tackled and the end of the referendum debate could trigger a renewed interest in the future of transport.