Petition for Rest public inquiry goes before committee

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A South Kintyre councillor’s petition calling for a probe into the handling of the situation at the landslide-prone Rest and Be Thankful was due to be heard by a Scottish Parliament committee this week.

The document, submitted by Councillor Donald Kelly and fellow Argyll First councillor Dougie Philand, of the Mid Argyll ward, was on the agenda at the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee’s Monday meeting.

The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to ‘instigate a public inquiry regarding the political and financial management of the A83 Rest and Be Thankful project, which is to provide a permanent solution for the route’.

The councillors, who have previously raised two petitions at the Scottish Parliament calling for a permanent solution at the site, raised the probe petition over concerns about a ‘waste’ of public money.

The cost of the project, which began in 2010 with a budget estimated to be in the region of £2 million to £3 million to carry out mitigation measures, has now increased to more than £100 million, with ‘no permanent solution in sight’.

Councillors Kelly and Philand are also concerned that the proposed permanent solution, which has a suggested 10-year timescale for completion, was first discussed in 2012 but was rejected in favour of the mitigation measures.

Given these factors, and the impact the ongoing issue has had, and continues to have, on the communities of Argyll and Bute and beyond, the councillors feel someone or body must be held accountable.

Councillor Kelly told the Courier this week: ‘We have continually and relentlessly put forward the case to the Scottish Government for a permanent solution to the Rest and Be Thankful issue but, as the years roll on and the costs of the piecemeal sticking plaster works escalate, there has to be full scrutiny of how we have got to this point and that the people responsible for this fiasco are held to task.’

In support of their probe petition, Councillors Philand and Kelly wrote: ‘We have the support of our local MSP Jenni Minto, our local MP Brendan O’Hara and the previous cabinet secretary Michael Russell.

‘The work by the Scottish government to date, whilst welcome, has not and will not provide stability to the only lifeline road in and out of Argyll, and it can be said confidently, if the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh were to constantly be blocked, it would not take 19 years to find a permanent solution.’

Visit petitions.parliament.scot/petitions/PE1916 to view the public inquiry petition.