The issue with our roads

21 Jan 2024
Highlands roads disgrace

Letter to The Inverness Courier, Sunday 21st January 2024

The issue with our roads

There seems to be a ‘National Something Day’ every day of the week. Last week, campaign group Round Our Way took advantage of National Potholes Day to inform us that the number of potholes in Scotland had risen by nearly 50% over the last year, to a five year high. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) warns that things will get worse due to budget pressures.

With the average repair of a damaged wheel or spring estimated to be £250 by the AA, drivers face a hefty bill, and only one in six will make a successful pothole claim. I got a flat tyre enroute to Dunvegan recently. As I discovered, potholes are dangerous, often resulting in damaged cars pulled up on dangerous corners. My wife, a keen cyclist, talks about the danger of swerving to avoid potholes and the impact that has when a car is overtaking her.

What is the impact of tourists who see the terrible state of our roads? They must see us as country falling into decline. As tourist numbers grow, so we need the transport infrastructure to be improved.

In November in England, Sunak announced an extra £8.3 billion to tackle the ‘scourge of the pothole’ over the next 11 years. So what is the position in Scotland? As we know, Transport Scotland is responsible for the A trunk roads and the Highland Council with smaller routes. Highland Council is suffering from severe cuts in the 85% of funding it receives from the Scottish Government.

It's not just potholes, it's capital investment that's the issue. A recent Freedom Of Information request to Transport Scotland revealed that Scottish Government spending on major road projects has declined rapidly, from £193m in 2017/18 to £26m in 2022/23, a period where the SNP have had an electoral pact with the anti-car Green party. Transport Scotland has a massive £3.5 billion budget - tellingly, £320m is being spent in the coming year on ‘active travel’.

A senior public servant recently told a conference audience in Fort William that Transport Scotland was the worst public sector body in the whole of the UK. I can quite believe it. Just consider Calmac ferry replacements, the Corran, the Rest and be Thankful, the A9 and the A82 alongside Loch Lomond, etc.

We need safe, excellent roads in rural Scotland. The active travel element of the Transport Scotland budget should be redirected to our road network.

Kind regards

Angus MacDonald
Highlands Liberal Democrat Councillor and Westminster Candidate

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