THE SNP’s Westminster leader has called on Boris Johnson to engage with Holyrood to improve rail links between Scotland and the major cities in the north of England, such as Manchester and Newcastle.

Ian Blackford made his comments after the Prime Minister gave the green light to the high-speed rail project HS2, despite fears over its cost and impact on the environment.

Johnson told MPs that his Government had “the guts to take the decision” to deliver prosperity across the country and added that to avoid “further blowouts” in HS2’s cost or schedule, a series of measures would be taken to “restore discipline to the programme”.

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This will include the appointment of a minister whose full-time job will be to oversee the project, and changes to the way HS2 is managed.

Johnson’s announcement followed a Government-commissioned review by former HS2 Ltd chair Douglas Oakervee into whether or not it should be scrapped. Johnson said: “The review ... leaves no doubt of the clinching case for high-speed rail. A vast increase in capacity with hundreds of thousands of extra seats making it much easier for travellers to move up and down our long, narrow country.

“And that means faster journey times, not just more capacity.”

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Oakervee found the final bill for HS2 could reach £106 billion, but Blackford (above) said Scotland should not be left out: “With the UK Government seeking a review of the second phase to build the line in the north of England, Scotland must not be left last in line.

“Building the line from the south up simply does not address connectivity, and if the UK Government wants to make real progress and real improvements work should also start to improve the connections from Scotland to the north of England and on to London.

“However, the announcement also raises some serious questions about the Tory Government’s sheer mismanagement of the project, the spiralling costs attached to it, and the endless delays. And no number of prime ministerial vanity projects will ever heal the economic damage and the damage to connectivity which his Tory Brexit will inflict.

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“The Prime Minister should provide the estimated £20bn for this project to the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive so that they can spend these monies on their own priorities.”

Transport Scotland welcomed Johnson’s announcement and said the Scottish Government recognised the benefits that construction of the line would bring to the Scottish economy.

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However, a spokesperson added: “In order to unlock the full potential of HS2, it must be completed in full and extended further into the north of England and Scotland.

“UK and Scottish Government Ministers made a joint commitment in 2016 that Transport Scotland would work in partnership with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to identify infrastructure options ... that can improve capacity, resilience and reliability on the rail routes between England and Scotland and move further towards the target three-hour air competitive journey time between London and Scotland (Glasgow and Edinburgh) to encourage a modal shift towards a much less polluting form of domestic transport.

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“The North of HS2 to Scotland working group ... has already identified a number of potential infrastructure enhancements, confirmed their ... feasibility and is now taking forward work to examine whether there would be a strong business case for progressing these.”

Penny Gaines, chair of campaign group Stop HS2, said: “It’s been clear for a very long time that HS2 Ltd is a dire company with a dysfunctional management scheme that is not fit to run a model railway let alone run a railway building company with a budget of many billions.”