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Salmond urges English 'northern accord' on high-speed rail campaign

Alex Salmond tonight calls for a "northern accord" between Scotland and the north of England to press for a high speed rail link to London.

He tells an audience of business leaders, academics and officials in Newcastle that much of Britain would be left "high and dry" for years under UK Government plans to build the £33billion High Speed 2 line from London to Birmingham by 2026.

The First Minister says: "The current proposals for high speed rail are promoted as being for a 'UK network' – but we know it is no such thing. Neither Edinburgh nor Newcastle, Glasgow nor Liverpool feature in the Department for Transport's proposals for this link and it is clear there is no urgency from the South East to recognise this gaping need.

"Scotland and the North East have strong economies which could be stronger with better links to each other and a well developed, efficient and resilient rail network provides our businesses with the certainty they need to invest, and supports the strong bonds we have.

"This is why we need an urgent review of the current high speed rail plans to ensure it can be delivered faster - and beyond Birmingham."

In a speech to the North East Economic Forum he calls for the organisation to work with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to press the UK Government to extend High Speed 2 further North. Under present plans, phase two will take the link only as far as Leeds and Manchester by 2033.

Mr Salmond added: "We all recognise that competitiveness of places – be it in Scotland, or in the North East – depends on investment in infrastructure, and investment in connectivity.

"That is why it is critical that we do not allow our needs to be shelved in favour of a south-centric project which will leave the north of these islands cut off from the rest of Europe.

"It is vital that by working in partnership we all support the development of a high speed rail network for Britain, which is delivered faster and reaches further, so that all can share its benefits and all can contribute to its success."

The plea came a day after the Scottish Government announced plans for a high speed link between Glasgow and Edinburgh by 2024. Ministers failed to reveal the cost or route, though earlier studies have suggested a £3billion price tag.

Analysis: is the Glasgow-Edinburgh fast link such a daft idea?

It also followed a comments by Katie Schmueker, associate director of IPPR North, who said the North of England needed a "Salmond figure" to win greater economic powers for region.

A report by the think tank, Borderland, suggested an independent or fiscally autonomous Scotland could not afford to slash corporation tax but could gain a competitive advantage over the north of England by using a mixture of smaller taxes and business grants.

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