East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill is seeking assurance that work he says is needed to upgrade the busy A1 road will not be blocked by the SNP’s Holyrood deal with the Greens.
The former Justice Secretary has written to his ex-colleague, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson, asking him to confirm that vital road infrastructure projects will not be impacted by the co-operation agreement reached between the two parties.
The Greens and the SNP have no both approved the deal which will see Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater become ministers in the Scottish Government. The agreement includes an intention to shift away from spending on new road projects, but appears to make an exception for those which reduce the road maintenance backlog or address road safety concerns.
Although there are not understood to be any road proposals pending for the A1, Mr MacAskill, who switched from the SNP to Alex Salmond’s new Alba party earlier this year, said with major green energy projects imminent in East Lothian the road needed to be upgraded to cope with the heavy construction traffic.
He said: “The A1 is not as dangerous a road as it used to be, but it is still not an adequate road for the volume of traffic.
That volume is only going to increase – and ironically much of that will be due to renewable energy. Transmission sites are being constructed at Thorntonloch and Cockenzie and cabling is to take place from East Lothian down to the North East of England, That is going to mean heavy goods traffic, all of which the A1 is entirely adequate for.”
And he sad when the time came to decommission Torness nuclear power station, there would again be a large number of specialised HGV vehicles using the road.
“All that is compounded by population expansion and the increased commuter and vacation traffic up the east coast. In these circumstances improving the road is vital for road user safety, as well as providing for the economy and communities along the growing A1 corridor.”
Mr MacAskill also asked for assurances about the plans for a flyover at the Sheriffhall roundabout, which are included in the Edinburgh City Region Deal, but were halted in February 2020 after the Greens called for it to be reviewed as part of their Holyrood budget deal with the SNP.
He said he used the junction himself and it was regularly congested at peak times. “Sheriffhall is essential to the Edinburgh and East of Scotland economy and it’s main access to the main hospital for the East of Scotland and so it’s a threat to public safety – I have seen emergency vehicles have to try and work their way through.
It was meant to be a city bypass to reduce congestion in Edinburgh, What has happened is the congestion is now on the bypass. I’m asking for an assurance flyover will not be affected by any payback to the Greens for their support.”
Transport Scotland said the relevant parts of the SNP-Green deal were that work on trunk roads projects under construction, design, development or procurement would continue to normal statutory assessment and business case processes and that future investment in the transport network would be set out in the second Strategic Transport Projects Review.