Passenger Voice June 2016: Scottish and Welsh elections: a clearer picture slowly emerges
27 May 2016
The results are in in the Scottish and Welsh elections, but what does this mean for transport users?
At the beginning of the month we saw elections for members of the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. In both countries, no party had an overall majority so it took a few days for the First Ministers and other Ministers to emerge.
In Wales, after some days, negotiations between Labour and Plaid Cymru (the party with the next highest number of seats) did not result in a formal coalition, but in some shared priorities. We do not yet know what these might be – if any – on transport. Plaid Cymru’s alternative Queen’s Speech was critical of delays in the electrification of the Greater Western Main Line.
One of the big transport topics currently in progress is the specification for the next Wales and Borders rail franchise – and South Wales Metro – ahead of next year’s decision on who it should be run by. This is likely to be led by Ken Skates AM as the new Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure. Both Labour and Plaid Cymru are keen to remove profit-making from the railway. This is being devolved to the Welsh Government, however they will also be pressing for further discussions on devolution.
Both Labour and Plaid Cymru are keen to remove the making of profits out of the railway. Plaid Cymru’s manifesto also referred to having passenger and workforce representatives in the governance structure of the Welsh services and a duty to improve communication with passengers. For the first time, UKIP now has seven seats in the Assembly, but judging by their manifesto, road rather than rail appears to be their transport policy focus.
In Scotland, the Scottish National Party lost six seats, but Nicola Sturgeon now remains First Minister. Transport was not a big issue during the election campaign, particularly with the Scotrail franchise having been resolved for the time being. The Scottish National Party has had a commitment for allowing public sector bodies to bid for rail franchises. So, before the end of this Parliament, could we see legislation to make this happen? Otherwise, the agenda looks as though it will be about investment in infrastructure, including rail.
In both countries, the new Ministers have yet to settle. So time will tell what their policy priorities will be.