Keith Brown has called on the UK Government to accelerate work to bring high speed rail to Scotland, and is developing a business case for a fast line between Scotland's two biggest cities.
Speaking ahead of his appearance at a rail industry conference, Mr Brown said: "Professor Richard Florida, one of the world's top 10 influential thinkers, sees Scotland's central belt as having the potential to be one of the world's economic 'mega regions'. It is only logical the high speed rail network connects with this region to capitalise on its potential. Scotland's economic output is already higher than any area of Britain outside of London and the South-east, it simply makes sense to extend the high speed network further north, the sooner the better.
"By encouraging further income generation, skills, universities and creativity, we can strengthen the region as one of the great economic hubs of the UK and the world.
"A further driver for high speed rail is the necessity to increase capacity on our main railway lines. There is already significant growth in cross border passenger and freight markets; we need to plan now for future demands. While the Scottish and UK Governments are already working together to consider options for linking Scotland to a high speed rail network, this work must be accelerated."