Westminster diary: Indyref2 court case & rail updates

Credit: PA

Potentially the most consequential arguments for our region were heard over the road from parliament this week, at the Supreme Court case on whether the Scottish Parliament can hold another independence referendum without UK Government consent.

In many ways, it's logical to recount those legal arguments in reverse chronological order.

On Wednesday, the UK Government's legal representative Sir James Eadie KC said the question of whether the Scottish Parliament has the necessary powers to hold a referendum should not be "farmed out" to the Supreme Court.

He said it is "obvious" that decisions on the union are "reserved to the United Kingdom parliament."

On Tuesday, the Scottish Government's most senior law officer Dorothy Bain KC said it was "in the public interest" that the judges rule on the "critically important question" of whether the Scottish parliament can legislate for another referendum.

She said the vote could not automatically bring about independence and "holding a referendum is not a reserved matter".

The Supreme Court president Lord Reed said it was likely to be "some months" before the five judges reached a decision.

In the meantime, the political arguments will continue on Monday when the Scottish Government publishes a paper on its plans for the economy and currency in an independent Scotland.

There should be a "near-normal" timetable on the west coast mainline from December, a senior manager from the under-fire rail operator told MPs on Wednesday.

Avanti West Coast reduced their services on the line in August, saying it was because most train drivers were no longer agreeing to work overtime.

Last week, the government extended their contract for six months, warning they needed to "drastically improve."

Richard Scott, Avanti West Coast's director of corporate affairs, told the Transport Committee they are "making progress" and that December would see a "big step up."

During Transport Questions in the Commons on Thursday, the Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk John Lamont said he was frustrated, because "transport officials are delaying and dragging their feet over the next steps to extend the Borders Railway to Hawick, Newcastleton and on to Carlisle."

He called on the UK Government to "urgently speed up this process."

Transport Minister Kevin Foster responded: "We are currently considering advice regarding next steps for the proposal. In particular, I am keen to see a feasibility study in place for the restoration of the whole rail route."

Funding was set aside for a feasibility study back in 2019.