Government turns down Highland road study call

The Scottish Government has told Jamie McGrigor MSP that there are no plans for a study of the economic impact of trunk road closures on communities in the Highlands and Islands.
The Scottish Government has told Jamie McGrigor MSP that there are no plans for a study of the economic impact of trunk road closures on communities in the Highlands and Islands.

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie McGrigor has expressed his disappointment after being told the Scottish Government had no plans for a study into the impact of frequent and lengthy trunk road closures in the Highlands and Islands.

Transport minister Keith Brown has told Mr McGrigor, in a written Parliamentary answer, that “we have not conducted an economic impact assessment of the impact of trunk road closures on tourism and other business in the Highlands and Islands, nor do we have any such plans”.

Mr McGrigor had asked the Scottish Government to consider such a study after being told that the A82 had been closed to traffic 97 times, the A83 43 times and the A85 46 times during the last three full calendar years.

Mr McGrigor, who earlier this week gave a cautious welcome to the news that Police Scotland would next year be rolling out new 3D-scanner equipment which it hopes will reduce the time required for road accident investigations, said: “With respect to the Minister, I am disappointed with his reply and I know many of my constituents, including tourism business owners, will also be frustrated that he does not seem to be able to acknowledge their genuine concerns.

“All of us accept that serious road traffic accidents will on occasion cause the closure of trunk roads. But many constituents have expressed to me their belief that the duration of these closures has increased substantially compared with 10 years ago, that this is detrimental to the economy and that there must be a better way of dealing with this.

“The Minister talks about diversion routes but the Highlands and Islands are not the same as the central belt where there are more road diversion options as there are more trunk roads.

“The very long diversions which my constituents, businesses and tourist visitors can face do have a real negative impact on visitors to the area and local businesses.”

Meanwhile, Police Scotland’s announcement earlier this week that the new 3D scanners will be deployed on Scotland’s roads has also been welcomed by Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell, who said he had asked transport minister Keith Brown to consider the technology 18 months ago.

“When I discovered that the equipment was being used in other countries for recording details of accident locations,” Mr Russell said, “I wrote to the Transport Minister pointing out that the very long delays on roads caused by surveying after an accident were a major problem in Argyll and Bute where there is rarely a convenient alternative road and sometimes no diversion at all is possible.

“I have continued to pursue this matter over the past 18 months and recently have corresponded again about the use of scanners, particularly on the A83 where repeated accidents have caused major difficulties.

“I am delighted that the pilot scheme has worked and that the scanners are now to be introduced.

“Whilst clearly everyone wishes to see no accidents at all and to ensure that the roads and drives skills continue to improve to secure safety at all times the introduction of scanners when accidents do occur will be very beneficial and I congratulate the Scottish Government and Police Scotland on taking this issue forward.”