A high speed rail link from Scotland to England is in the pipeline and are to be discussed by the Scottish Government, first minister Alex Salmond has said.
The plans could see a high speed rail built from the north in an independent Scotland instead of waiting "decades" for it to spread from the south, he told an audience in Carlisle during a speech in which he said the two countries would remain "close friends and neighbours". Source: PA.
Mr Salmond said the UK's current plans for high speed rail "lack high ambition" for Scotland and the north.
He also said an independent Scotland would be an "economic counterweight" to London and the south-east, with people in the north of England still able to work and trade in an independent Scotland without changing currency.
Speaking to business leaders, he said: "Scottish independence would not change many aspects of the day to day life of other countries within the UK.
"Carlisle would still have strong economic links with Scotland, and as a senior UK Government minister revealed to the Guardian just a few weeks ago, "of course there would be a currency union".
He confirmed a feasibility study would be set up to examine the options of creating high speed rail links from Scotland.
Mr Salmond said: "We are already working with the UK Government to prepare joint plans for high speed rail links between England and Scotland. Initial findings from this review are due in the summer. And we are taking the initiative within Scotland - detailed planning is being undertaken for a high speed service between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which could link to high speed lines from England. The business case for that Edinburgh to Glasgow link will be sent to Scottish ministers in just a few weeks' time.
"An independent Scotland could do much more. Rather than paying our share of the borrowing costs for high speed rail, as we wait decades for it to spread up from the south, we can use that money to build high speed rail from the north instead.
"It's time to take positive action. I can confirm today that the Scottish Government will build on the joint work we are undertaking with the UK Government. We will establish a feasibility study to explore in detail the options for building high speed rail from Scotland to England. In doing so, we will work closely with partners across the UK, especially in the north of England. Of course we can't determine the route, until we undertake the feasibility study. But it is a statement of intent. "
Mr Salmond said a vision of the border areas as hubs being at the centre of trade between different parts of the UK required the transport connectivity to link Scotland and the north of England more effectively together.
He said: "The UK's current plans for high speed rail lack high ambition - for Scotland and for the north. They also lack speed - they may not reach Manchester and Leeds until 2032. And Carlisle? Well maybe, to quote Burns, when the rocks melt wi' the sun."
Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats said high speed rail was an argument for "working together".
He said: "Alex Salmond has identified another positive reason for someone to stay in the United Kingdom. By removing Scotland from the UK he removes Scotland of any influence over acceleration of high speed rail.
"High speed rail is not an argument for independence, it's an argument for working together. If he was being straight with the people of Carlisle Alex Salmond would have told them that his economic policies would have a detrimental effect on their economy. It would take more than a fast train to save the damage caused by his race to the bottom on corporation tax."
The First Minister confirmed during his speech that the Scottish Government intends to host a series of forums on economic co-operation with the north of England in the event of a Yes vote in the referendum, inviting representatives from local authorities and business organisations to participate.
He also told those gathered: "You will remain Scotland's closest friends, as well as our closest neighbours."
In his message, which came on St George's Day, the SNP leader added: " People would still live in Annan and work in Carlisle, or live in Penrith and work in Lockerbie. Friends and family would continue to visit each other. We would still watch many of the same television programmes. People from Scotland and England would still celebrate personal unions - by getting married in Carlisle Cathedral, like Sir Walter Scott and Charlotte Carpenter, or perhaps by going to Gretna instead."
The Prime Minister also issued a plea today for the people of Scotland to remain united with England in the ''world's greatest family of nations''.
David Cameron said it was possible to be proud of the individual nations in the United Kingdom while remaining committed to the union.
He said the UK was a ''global success story'' and ''no matter how great we are alone, we will always be greater together''.
Ten things to see and do in Scotland
Hgh speed railway from Scotland to England: Salmond announces plans
Chanonry Point is a prime site for spotting bottlenose dolphins, so if you want some great wildlife photo opportunities, this place has got it all. The Point is a small peninsula extending over a mile south east into the Moray Firth from Rosemarkie and Fortrose, and the best times to spot the dolphins are in the mornings when the tide comes in, bringing shoals of fish with it, and in the afternoons when it washes the fish out to sea again. For photography purposes, the afternoon is best because the sun is in the best position. The imposing Fort George lies on the opposite shore.
The Stevenson family – including their most famous member, Robert Louis – was big in the world of lighthouses and examples of their work can be seen around the world. This one, built by Robert’s Uncle Alan, is constructed uniquely in Egyptian style. Completed in 1849 it inspired Alice Thompson’s ghost story Pharos. Local folklore has it that, in the nineteenth century, all three lighthouse keepers vanished without trace forever. Open from 1 April - 31 October. Stables Coffee Shop and Exhibition Centre open daily. Lighthouse tours every half hour 11am-4.30pm. For admission to the Tower and Exhibition Centre: Adults £5; children under 16, concessions £3; family (4 persons) £14
There’s a treehouse lover in most of us, and there’s a chance to stay in a luxury treehouse in the woods at Fernie Castle for the ultimate outdoorsy type. There are three balconies, a swing and all mod cons – but it all comes with a price tag of around £500 a night. Mind you, this includes a chilled bottle of champagne, chocolates, a fresh fruit basket, soft drinks, biscuits, Continental breakfast, breakfast tea and coffee as well as dinner in the Castle. Up amidst six sycamore trees, the copper-roofed construction is festooned in fairy lights and contains beautifully hand-crafted natural wood furniture, including a king-sized elm bed. There’s heating, running water, a flat-screen TV, DVD and CD player, plus fridge, kettle and coffee maker. This might just be the perfect place for a honeymoon or special anniversary.
You don’t have to be a science geek to enjoy the futuristic, titanium-clad Science Centre on the south bank of the River Clyde. You could be a film buff (there’s a fab IMAX Theatre with a 12,000-watt sound system); a sightseer (the views from the unique 105m-high Glasgow Tower rotates 360 degrees to give breathtaking views); an astronomer (when you visit the Scottish Power Planetarium) or a conservationist (there’s a climate change theatre, too!). But if you do happen to be a budding scientist, it’s an unmissable feast of 300 hands-on exhibits, interactive workshops and live science shows. There’s enough to amuse and entertain to make it a great day out, and you can eat and drink there as well. Open daily, adults (16+) £9.95; child and concessions £7.95, parking £3
Here’s a real must-see in the heart of Glasgow University, housing exhibits left to it by Scottish anatomist Dr William Hunter as well as priceless works of art and historical reconstructions, including a Charles Rennie Mackintosh bedroom (pictured). The Museum holds outstanding Roman artifacts from the Antonine Wall; Dr Hunter’s own extensive anatomical teaching collection and one of the world’s greatest numismatic (coins and currency) collections . The Art Gallery houses a small collection of works by huge-name artists, including 60 works by James McNeill Whistler. You can also see pieces by Rubens, Rembrandt and Chardin. Both the Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum are free and open daily from Tuesday to Sunday.
If you’ve ever had occasion to wish you could be judge and jury, then Inveraray Jail could help you to live out your fantasy. The ancient courthouse and prison is an interactive experience where you can watch re-enactments of ‘prisoners’ facing the judge. Join the jury, hear the verdict, meet the prison staff and socialise with the inmates. The exhibitions are gory enough to satisfy the most blood-thirsty of souls. Adults £8.95; seniors £7.50; children 5-16 £4.95; under-fives free.
Just a couple of minutes’ drive from the M74 you can find yourself in the charming 19th century spa town of Moffat. If it’s your first visit to Scotland, it’s the perfect introduction to the country. Take your pick of hotels and cafés for a meal break then let the kids wear themselves out in a very family-friendly park that has mini golf, boating and a swing park, or take yourselves off for a bracing hill walk. The town itself boasts the narrowest hotel in the world, the shortest street in the UK and the widest main street in Scotland.
Even if you have no knowledge or understanding of engineering, this eight-lock flight is amazing to see. It raises the canal by 19m (62ft) over a quarter of a mile of continuous masonry. It’s overlooked by Ben Nevis and the best way to view it is by boat: a trip takes an hour and a half to pass from one end to the other.
If you’ve ever read Robert Burns’ poem Tam O’Shanter, you’ll be able to put the character Souter Johnnie into some physical context. John Davidson, the original Souter (cobbler) Johnnie, lived in this quaint 18th-century thatched cottage. This National Trust for Scotland house also offers a taste of how the Davidson family would have lived and worked, and you can see Souter Johnnie’s original tools and even a small collection of Robert Burns memorabilia. Open from 1 April-30 September, Friday-Tuesday, adults £6; family: £16 (1 parent : £11); concessions £5. Free to members.
Lurking beneath an innocent-looking Scottish farmhouse is a secret underground bunker that remained hidden for over 40 years. It’s 100 feet below ground level and is huge, measuring 24,000 square feet - that’s the size of two football pitches stacked on top of one another. In the event of nuclear war, this would be the government headquarters for Scotland. Discover how a Cold War government would have survived underground when you visit the Secret Bunker. Open daily from 10am, last admission 5pm. Closed for the winter season from the end of October.