Steve Agg FCILT, Chief Executive of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, discusses the aftermath of the Scottish vote on independence. He asks if increased powers for the UK regions could impact on national plans for improvements to our transport infrastructure.
What will change for logistics and transport post the referendum?
Following the historic referendum vote in Scotland, there now follow many months of discussions to decide how our United Kingdom will be administered post the decision of the Scottish people. Recent weeks have confirmed to us all that significant change will now be set in train with regard to the decentralisation of powers not only for Scotland but for other areas of the UK.
Areas of the UK are certain to lobby for more localised decision making probably at national, regional, city and county levels and much energy and resource will be spent on these deliberations. None of us will be untouched by all of this and I wonder how the world of logistics and transport will be affected if we head toward a more federal style structure with increased decentralisation of powers. Will we start to see differing regulatory regimes, tax structures and multiple layers of bureaucracy? Let’s hope not as increasing complexity can quickly drive up costs and strangle innovation in any field and particularly in logistics and transport which by its nature crosses all borders.
Questions will I’m sure be raised around how major infrastructure projects will be delivered; who pays for national projects with money raised from differing tax regimes leading to arguments about which sections of society gain the most from the many investments made on our behalf by all spending departments. This may not seem to be too different from the situation today you might think when we already have devolved national governments within our country. The uncertainty is that none of us know at this time how much extra power will be devolved to how many additional administration bodies following all of the pre referendum hype and pledges made by our politicians.
I’m reminded of some words from Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s Vice President for Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Investment Development, when he delivered this year’s Sir Robert Reid Rail lecture. He emphasised the challenges of running a railway through an area with multiple levels of governance as he does on the east coast of America through a number of city and regional jurisdictions whilst also being held to account at the federal level.
This inevitably means that the transport infrastructure runs through areas funded by a range of administrative bodies which may well have different political masters with varying aims and certainly differing funding priorities: all of which makes for a very slow decision making process and of course often, no decision at all.
Let’s be careful what we wish for.
Steve Agg is Chief Executive of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.
ParcelHero’s White Paper, issued before Scotland voted on September 19th, discussed our concerns about delivering into Scotland, were it to have voted ‘Yes’ to Independence but then fail to secure EU membership or the pound sterling. The paper is available to view here.