WHILE folk fell hook line and sinker for Boris Johnson’s latest dead cat and are still going on about a fantasy bridge across the Irish Sea, the diversion keeps them from proper consideration of an infrastructure project that could have real and far-reaching consequences for Scotland.

The first roll-out of high-speed rail in the UK has been given the go-ahead after years of political point-scoring, procrastination and controversy, at a likely cost of more than £100 billion. Scotland has been excluded for now: the line will go from London to Birmingham, then on to Manchester and Leeds. To say talk of the next potential phase – an extension to Glasgow and Edinburgh – has been muted is an understatement. Apparently, none of the stuff about how cities in Northern England have lost out economically to London and the south east applies to Scotland. We’ll have had our tea, then.

Unsurprisingly, off the back of this there are plenty of HS2 naysayers north of the Border, many claiming it’s unreasonable to ask Scottish taxpayers to fund a railway line in another country. Some believe high-speed rail per se is a big, fat waste of money when there are more pressing transport needs. Others don’t like it because it’s a Tory project.

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If we’re canny, however, we will leave party politics out of it for now and look to the fundamentals: despite not going anywhere near us, HS2 could be the best thing to happen to Scottish railways in a generation.

The Barnett Formula means the Scottish Government is in for a windfall of between £6bn and £10bn (depending on who you listen to). In itself, this is great news. But the next most important thing is how the money is spent, and, in my view, the entirety must go straight into the coffers of the transport secretary.

If you take into consideration that the recent electrification of the Glasgow to Edinburgh line cost about £800 million, imagine what up to £10bn could do for our creaking network.

Top of the wish-list are the sort of projects that could revolutionise travel and provide a huge boost to local economies. Extending the hugely successful Borders Railway to Carlisle, for example, would be a massive boon for isolated Borderers, opening up job opportunities across a swathe of southern Scotland and northern England. It would also provide an east coast link towards HS2. The closer the better.

Another possibility could be electrification of the line north of Edinburgh to Aberdeen. The Granite City feels particularly put out by HS2, and campaigned strongly to oppose it. But, surely, as it seeks to move away from reliance on oil and gas, being more quickly connected to the Central Belt would be key? Its future as a centre for green energy depends upon it.

Or how about opening new stations in Perthshire? Or improving the West Highland Line? The line from Glasgow to Oban and Mallaig, often touted as one of the world’s great railway journeys, could do with serious investment. New trains with European-style viewing carriages, good food and proper bike storage would increase capacity and be worth a fortune to the tourist economy.

As for a Glasgow Airport link, successive councils have lacked the funding – and the will – to make it happen. Scotland’s biggest city can’t really claim to be a European business centre without one, however.

Proper funding could also transform the bus network across Scotland, especially in isolated urban and rural areas worst-hit by cuts to services over many years. How can we expect poorer folk to help themselves into work when we don’t provide public transport routes to get them there? How can we expect people to abandon their cars and opt for greener modes of transport without offering a viable alternative? Why are so few of our public transport systems, even in cities, properly integrated and bike friendly? All of these questions could be answered with funding.

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Clearly, £10bn would never cover all these improvements. But it is a good start.

Regardless of which side of the independence debate you sit on, start lobbying your political representatives to get a slice of the HS2 cash for your area’s transport needs. I know I will be.

The battle of wills between the Scottish Government and Boris Johnson’s administration over a second independence referendum remains palpable. But on this matter it is imperative the First Minister and her team works with rather than against Mr Johnson to make sure both sides get the most out of HS2. Transformative levels of funding for Scottish transport infrastructure and the jobs that would accompany it depend upon it.