Posted on June 26th, 2018
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
The rumpus surrounding the vote in the House of Commons regarding whether or not to go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow has thrown up all sorts of interesting issues.
In Scotland, much of the focus has been on the fact that SNP MPs did not bother voting despite the Scottish Government previously indicating that it was in favour of the third runway.
Colonel Davidson took to social media to castigate the SNP for changing their minds and so placing a potential 16,000 Scottish jobs at risk. This seems an astonishingly high figure and some people have pointed out that it comes from a highly optimistic forecast produced by some business analysts employed by Heathrow to promote the third runway project. In fact, the forecast claims that up to 16,000 Scottish jobs could be created by the year 2050. That’s quite a forecast if it can see that far into the future and, of course, the words “up to" are notoriously flexible when it comes to such crystal ball gazing, including, as they do, the number 1.
The SNP also came in for some criticism from individuals living in England who were outraged that they should have a vote at all. I mean, how dare politicians from another country vote on issues affecting their neighbour? This attitude also suggests that some people don’t realise just how many flights there are between Scotland and Heathrow.
This, of course, is why the Scottish Government initially favoured the expansion at Heathrow. It is a view many of us disagreed with since we would prefer to see increased use of Scottish airports. Many people have pointed out that the largest export by weight from Heathrow is Scottish salmon which, by virtue of being routed via Heathrow, does not count as Scottish exports. Why can this, and other, produce not be flown out of the underused Prestwick airport?
Another issue raised was the estimated cost of £14 billion. It seems the Tories’ Magic Money Tree is always able to bear fruit when infrastructure costs are required in and around London.
As it turned out, of course, the SNP’s involvement in the vote would have been meaningless. The proposal passed by 415 votes to 119. Whichever way the SNP had voted, it would have made no difference to the outcome.
However, we should not shy away from criticising the SNP for abstaining. It was a fudge so that they could not be accused by Scottish businesses of voting against a proposal which might have produced more jobs and business for Scotland. Yet the decision rather undermines Ian Blackford’s assertion that the SNP would disrupt the business of Parliament in protest at how Scotland has been treated by the UK Government. Unless the SNP knew in advance that the vote would be so one-sided, their votes against the proposal might have created problems for the UK Government. Equally, if they were confident that the proposal would carry with such a majority, voting against it would not have altered the outcome but might have sent a signal that they were against a vanity project which Brexit may yet render a waste of time.
But now the Heathrow runway can be added to the ever-growing list of things Scotland will need to contribute to but which will probably bring little benefit to Scotland. Heathrow does have an advantage over things like the London sewers, the London Crossrail link, and HS2 in that some flights to Scotland might be able to take advantage of the extra capacity, but anyone who believes that a possible benefit for Scotland featured in the UK Government’s thinking hasn’t been paying attention to what is going on in Westminster.