We need a firm fix now

The A83 Rest and Be Thankful and the Old Military Road (OMR).

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Lack of certainty over the long-term solution for the A83 has been widely criticised by politicians and other interested parties this week.

An announcement by Transport Scotland last week stated that ‘major progress on all fronts’ had been made but failed to provide a clear timeline.

Cross-party group Argyll First has campaigned relentlessly for a permanent solution to the issue and member Councillor Donald Kelly told the Courier: ‘A public enquiry has to be carried out to investigate the whole scenario. The proposed 10-year time scale is totally unacceptable and we will continue to campaign to ensure this is fast tracked.

‘As the summer approaches and the weather becomes drier, as in previous years, in all probability, the disruption will slow down.

‘Therefore when the new government is elected it will be vitally important to keep the pressure on to ensure that there is no loss of momentum.’

John Erskine, Scottish Labour candidate for the Highlands and Islands, said: ‘Any progress on finding a lasting solution to the Rest and Be Thankful is, of course, welcome, but without any additional information on timescales communities in Argyll and Bute will remain concerned about the pace of the proposals.’

Mr Erskine, the opposition spokesman for energy, connectivity and the islands, raised concerns over what he called a central belt bias.

And Donald Cameron, the Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP, said the announcement ‘failed’ to commit the Scottish Government to a firm date and raised the issue in First Minister’s Questions.

Mr Cameron said: ‘Once again, all I got from Nicola Sturgeon was warm words. Once again, the supposed need for consultation and statutory processes was used as an excuse for procrastination.’

He said the SNP had promised a solution for 14 years but the area still had ‘no idea when, if ever, there will be a permanent solution’.

‘This failure to provide any assurances is a huge blow to businesses and communities across Argyll and Bute,’ said Mr Cameron.

Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat Councillor for the Cowal ward on Argyll & Bute Council also condemned the lack of progress at the Rest and Be Thankful other than changing the colours on a map.

Mr Reid said: ‘In 2012 the SNP published a coloured map showing options for the route of the A83 at the Rest & Be Thankful. Nine years later all they’ve done is colour in the map slightly differently. We are no further forward than we were in 2012.

‘Whoever is in government after the election must stump up the money needed to construct a road protected from landslides. This must be done very quickly, definitely a lot quicker than the 10 years the SNP say it will take them.

‘Without urgent action many businesses in Argyll will not survive.’

In its announcement last week Transport Scotland revealed that the Glen Croe corridor, option one in the recent consultation, was the preferred option for a long-term fix and that ‘in recognition of a need to act quickly, further short and medium-term mitigation works have also been identified’.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP said: ‘Identifying the preferred route corridor is a major step forward for this vital work and we are now pushing forward to look at five alternative options within that online corridor and starting the process shortly to appoint design consultants for this work.

‘Following substantial public feedback our future assessment work will place particular emphasis on the timescale to deliver these options.

‘I have asked Transport Scotland to accelerate the preparation and delivery of the scheme where possible given the importance of the route to local communities and road users.’

See open letter to the First Minister from John Gurr, chairman of The Rest and Be Thankful Campaign, on the letters page.