Borders Railway - Open at Last

It is very exciting to see the new Borders railway opened at last.

It brings back many memories.

The reopening of the Borders Railway was one of the issues that we included in the Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto for the 2003 election.

We negotiated hard with the Labour Party. Despite some opposition it was included in the programme for the new coalition government.

But that was just the start of the fight. Getting internal Government agreement to commit funding to the project was extremely tough.

Ahead of my appearance before the Borders Railway parliamentary committee, there were many internal government battles. The biggest of these was with certain senior civil servants, who strongly opposed funding the project. They believed that there were many road projects in Scotland that offered better value. And there were big clashes on this issue because everyone knew that if the government did not give funding support, then the whole project would collapse.

There was a lot of tension around my appearance as Minister of Transport in front of the parliamentary committee in Galashiels that day back in March 2005. Nobody was certain what the announcement would be.

“But that was nothing compared to the tensions and battling that was taking place behind the scenes. The Government's transport department, the finance department, Ministers and civil servants were all involved.

I was constantly on the mobile phone during the car journey south from Edinburgh - there was no train then! The phone signal was terrible and every last word of my statement had to be fiercely negotiated. There was even a delay in my appearance in front of the committee as there had been so many changes we had to find a printer to produce a new version of my speech.

But we got there in the end. And as a Liberal Democrat transport minister in the Borders, I felt privileged to confirm the government's funding support for the Borders railway. It was one of the proudest moments in my political career - after one of the most agonising, high tension car journeys of my life.”

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