What’ll the SNP/Green deal hold for vital road infrastructure projects the length and breadth of Scotland? Who knows but I fear it’ll not be as benign as the SNP is currently spinning.
The Greens are historically hostile to road investment and that won’t be tempered by office.
They were hostile to the commitment to dual the A9, despite the arguments made of the carnage that regularly occurred on it. Improvements and an increase in the HGV speed limit, albeit with average speed cameras brought in, are working. Accidents are reduced and the road’s far safer.
They also pushed for the Edinburgh Team scheme, even when it was explained that for a similar price every bus in Lothian could be a new state-of-the-art low-emission vehicle and every bus in Edinburgh be run free for seven years.
But the mantra was ‘roads bad and trams good’, and we were lumbered. So we’ll see but I’m sure it will have an impact and not for the good. Of course, investment in walking and cycling is to be welcomed. Public transport’s also fundamental to our society and the coronavirus pandemic has only made the challenges there harder.
Cutbacks in ScotRail services and increased costs and curtailed timetables on bus networks are a blow to trying to get folk out of their cars. For many it wasn’t an option before and that has simply worked.
Improving what’s available and subsidising fares, which is just as important, will be necessary. All that comes at a cost. For sure we can’t cover the country in asphalt or build our way out of congestion. But there are road projects which are necessary for the country’s social and economic development, as well as being essential for the safety and quality of life of many communities.
It’s not just the Rest and Be Thankful but many more across the country where action and upgrades have been long overdue. They can’t be culled by the deal. Suggestions that the A9 and A96 are covered by and opt-out on safety ground ring hollow when progress on them has slowed, in not stall anyway.
The new dualled section of the A9 between Birnam and Dunkeld opened at the weekend but no new stage for action has been unveiled. Communications with Transport Scotland seems to have them awaiting ministerial direction. The ability to complete another stage of the dualling – let alone the route in its entirety by 2025 as previously promised – looks doomed.
The A96 is needed for the north-east, as the A75 is required for the south-west. Despite Brexit and driver shortages, HGVs still thunder along the latter frim Cairnryan, seeking the motorway network south.
A flyover at Sheriffhall is vital to ease congestion, never mind easing access to the east of Scotland’s major hospital. The A1 requires action as offshore wind renewable energy projects see transmission stations being constructed and subsea cabling work begin.
Those projects aren’t a highway to hell but essential, and mustn’t be lost as part of the price of this deal.