One of the #yesbecause reasons used a graph showing that the population of Scotland pretty much has stood still for over 100 years.
A key issue going forward for Scotland is the ageing profile of the population too.
So it popped into my head. Population growth and repopulating Scotland.
Where? I’m not sure. In the urban heartlands of West Central Scotland the process of renewing housing stock is ongoing and obviously lower density types of housing, terraced in particular is replacing flats and multi storey blocks.
There’s brownfield land and sites across the City of Glasgow and outlying areas. Also true of Ayrshire and East Central Scotland.
So populations within existing towns and cities could be catered for, and that’s not supposing on private developers and schemes in the various local and national planning frameworks.
We also have town centre issues and a desire that upper floor above shops in town centres are occupied and that multi use buildings are thought about in the urban context.
I’m pretty sure that the ‘new towns’ aren’t all fully built out to all their planned areas and in some, regeneration might be a thought.
So, ok. But what if after independence there’s a policy of growing the population?
By growing the population, I mean having a long terms goal that Scotland should have Seven Million residents in future. Or eight or ten.
For me, that’s where we have to look at the density of population per acre or hectare across the country and think very long term over infrastructure.
Scotland needs to improve connections and journey times between the Highlands/North East Coast and the Central Lowlands.
There’s a disconnect between the Borders area and Edinburgh.
The new train line will help but journey times to and from there aren’t brilliant and there should be better connections from parts of Lanarkshire to the Borders too.
For the Highlands, The A9 dialling still seems a long way off and a mostly single track highland main line isn’t good enough.
Perhaps high speed rail offers an opportunity, perhaps motorway status would help north of Perth.
But is there a will to do so and would Scotland (post independence) aim for growth of population?
Undoubted benefits are there for tourism and industry by improving the infrastructure.
Ireland has a partially tolled system of a new expanded motorway system built in the last 15 years. Mainly two lane and giving large overcapacity in places.
I’m guessing the road in that picture is pretty much future proof.
Norway has an impressive set of civil engineering in terms of it’s road network improvement with tunnels and bridges through the difficult parts of terrain.
Does Scotland go for it, build the A9 to Inverness, improve the other A roads leading north, straighten, widen and make accessible more villages in the north and north west of Scotland.
The A9 beyond Inverness shouldn’t be ignored and neither should connections down to Stranraer, or up the A82 for Oban for that matter.
Should a goal be to make accessibility greater in the Highland rural heartlands to speed journeys south and make a network of roads that’s easier and simpler to drive with less bends and cutting through the terrain.
The Green part of my soul doesn’t like road building, but my brain knows that Scotland hasn’t the road infrastructure in place right now that other countries do.
Is there a civil engineering solution to offer employment through construction and linkage benefits thereafter?
How quick can that journey to Inverness or say, Melrose become?
Can that lever in towards expansion of towns and villages nearby?
Inverness has been going well in recent years, but do we want to only expand there?
What about the Moray Coast and are there opportunities between Perth and Inverness?
If we look at the Lateral North and Nordic Horizons stuff, then Scotland has to refocus it’s world view.
We’re on that North Atlantic ‘sea road’, is it healthy to keep the bulk of our population and economic activity relatively in the south of the country and along the belt of the M8.
Isn’t that our criticism of London and the South East of England?
We need to be polycentric, you can look at Germany or Italy for that, sure they’ve got a capital city, but it’s not the be all and end all.
Can population, business, industry and employment grow outside the Central belt?
Can other places be developed, connected and planned for economic and population growth?
Is there inspiration from Scandanavia, could we go do something like the Danes have and connect up our islands to the mainland.
We know about ‘The Bridge’ or the Øresund Link, 8km of bridge and 4km of tunnel. Couldn’t the homeland of great engineers like Thomas Telford come up with something more ambitious than a second Forth Road Bridge?
Orkney is 16km from mainland, but what about Bute or Arran or Islay or Jura or getting from Skye to Harris?
Crazy, maybe, huge projects for little return? Maybe.
We’ll need to get to and from some of these places for tidal and wave power anyway and there’s tourist potential if done in a sensitive way.
Could options like that be explored?
As by connecting up to be ‘One Scotland’, we take remoteness off the agenda and maybe out infrastructure in place that will benefit Scotland for generations off an oil wealth that could possibly last one or two.
1. We grow our two main cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow are vital for our nation as centres of business, work and education. We look within them for opportunities.
2. We strengthen our other urban centres and build up Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Perth and Stirling. Each has a hinterland that could benefit from better connections and access.
3. Our traditional towns across the Central Belt all have a role to play. We look for opportunities in each to boost those communities but also improve connections between them and to the big two.
4. Our focus changes away from London and their needs. We ensure that what we have in Scotlanf can be every bit as good. We stop the brain drain and create opportunity from top to bottom and across our country.
5. We invest in infrastructure, we connect places. We electrify our railways, we move goods and people by train. We make the missing links north and put motorways to Inverness and Aberdeen.
6. We look to our Islands and think what is possible to bring them closer to us on the mainland. We look at other countries and take inspiration and think ‘well if they can’
7. We accept HS2 and work to have that connection south made as soon as we can. We share the island, so we try to make journeys south and hopefully also to the continent as quick as possible.
8. We look north and we look east, what part can we play with our neighbours? What is needed to help us talk and trade with them?
9. We look at how to improve links to Ireland. Can we make the ferry connections better, can we reduce the whole public transport journey from Belfast to Glasgow or Edinburgh. If we do then opportunities can come from Dublin and the South too.
10. If we can, we see what can be done in partnership with the great cities of Northern England. Is there a chance to create a core link from Edinburgh to Newcastle or Glasgow to Manchester. We can help ‘our friends in the north’ and they can help us.
We have the people and the brains and the potential to do all this, with time and money and independence.