I HAVE written before about the Campaign for North East Rail, its vision to bring rail back to Peterhead and Fraserburgh and the work I and my office team have been doing to try to help.

The long-awaited Buchan Sustainable Transport Study has now been published, as you may have read in The National last week, and it is brimming with the transformative potential we’ve been hoping for!

This comprehensive study sheds light on the immense benefits of re-railing the north-east, promising a future of enhanced connectivity, economic growth, and safer roads. Finally, we have the solid evidence needed to drive forward this project.

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This is not just about showcasing Scotland’s capabilities with the right investment and support but highlighting the immense potential we have as a nation.

The north-east, particularly my constituency of Banffshire and Buchan Coast, is rapidly expanding, thanks to offshore wind developments, and vitally our fishing industry plays a significant role in the Scottish economy, providing a low-carbon, high-protein food source.

We possess both the interest and resources. What we need now is to build the capacity to fully realise and harness this potential.

The study also found that re-railing Fraserburgh and Peterhead could reduce 75% of serious or fatal accidents on the A90 northbound, statistically one of the deadliest roads in Scotland. The heavy goods vehicle (HGV) levels on this road are consistently high every hour of every day of the working week.

Transferring many of these HGV movements to rail would mean cleaner air, fewer emissions, safer roads, and further economic growth opportunities. Reducing HGV traffic would contribute to Scotland’s ambitious climate goals. Cleaner air leads to better health outcomes, reducing the strain on our health system and improving the quality of life for residents.

The study also emphasised that rerailing Fraserburgh and Peterhead could help achieve the Scottish Government’s goals of reducing road deaths by 75% and eliminating them by 2050. This is not just a statistical achievement but a moral imperative. Every life saved is a family spared from grief.

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Reconnecting Fraserburgh and Peterhead to the railway would also significantly boost the local economy. According to the study, this project could create thousands of jobs, boosting local businesses and attracting new investments. It’s about giving communities the tools they need to thrive and ensuring our region can fully participate in Scotland’s economic growth.

AS a long-time supporter of the Campaign for North East Rail (CNER), I have tirelessly advocated for the economic, educational, health, and social benefits this initiative promises.

It feels like just yesterday that I joined other MSPs to meet with the then transport minister, Jenny Gilruth, and representatives from CNER on a section of the old railway line. It was during that meeting a couple of years ago that my office suggested using the Just Transition Fund for a feasibility study.

I also successfully presented a motion at the SNP conference, making a compelling case for rerailing the north-east. It was overwhelmingly adopted into our party policy. Participating in debates and consistently raising this issue through motions and questions in Parliament has been a priority for me.

I have always believed in the transformative potential of this project. The publication of this feasibility study is not only a vindication of these efforts but also a clarion call to push forward.

Fraserburgh Harbour’s expansion master plan, for example, highlights the urgent need for improved transport links. If these plans were fully realised, we would see a very different north-east – one that benefits those living and working here, but also across all of Scotland.

And for an independence supporter such as myself, I can see the need even more to support a thriving independent Scotland. We have seen the successes of similar projects elsewhere.

The Borders Railway, reopened in 2015, has revitalised communities along its route, increased property values, and attracted new businesses. The recently opened Levenmouth link will soon see the same benefits. There’s no reason why the north-east cannot experience the same renaissance.

The potential for tourism should also not be underestimated.

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Re-establishing rail connections can open up the north-east to more visitors, showcasing our beautiful coastline, rich cultural heritage and vibrant communities.

The rail project is not just about infrastructure, it’s about people. It’s about ensuring our children have the opportunities to stay and work in their home communities. It’s about providing our elderly population with safer, more reliable transport options. It’s about creating a region that is attractive to live and work in.

The potential job creation from this project is immense. Thousands of new jobs could be created in the construction, maintenance, and operation of the railway, as well as in industries that will benefit from improved transportation links. Increase employment opportunities would help to reduce poverty.

Improved transportation links also mean better access to education and healthcare. Students will be able to attend schools and universities further afield, and patients will have easier access to medical facilities. This is particularly important in rural areas where services are often spread out over large distances.

This study provides a solid foundation but it is only the beginning. We need support from all spheres of government to make this vision a reality. This is where people’s collective voices as constituents and community leaders become vital.

The Buchan Sustainable Transport Study has laid out the blueprint. Now it’s up to us to bring it to life, not just for the north-east but for our future as a thriving independent Scotland.