Committee refuses to close petition on Rest ‘saga’

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South Kintyre councillor Donald Kelly has welcomed a Scottish Parliament committee’s decision to write to Scotland’s national transport agency in relation to calls for a probe into the handling of the situation at the landslide-prone Rest and Be Thankful (RABT).

The Scottish Parliament’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee has agreed to write to Transport Scotland to seek clarity after discussing the petition calling for a public inquiry into the political and financial management of the A83 RABT project to provide a permanent solution for the route.

The document was submitted by Councillor Kelly and his fellow Argyll First councillor Dougie Philand, who have previously raised two petitions at the Scottish Parliament calling for a permanent solution at the site, 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.

The petition was last discussed by the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee in January, when members agreed to write to Transport Scotland to clarify if it intended to carry out a public inquiry into the management of the project.

During a meeting in April, committee convener Jackson Carlaw MSP said: ‘We have received an update from Transport Scotland, which makes the point that a public inquiry would take a protracted period of time and would only review all that has been discussed to date, but not necessarily identify any solutions.’

He added: ‘Although a public inquiry might only look at everything that has happened to date, Transport Scotland, in not seeking to pursue that route, implies that carrying out such an inquiry would delay it in taking forward a viable project.

‘However, taking forward a viable project – or even the identification of one – is the big overhanging issue, so I’m unwilling to close the petition at this point.

‘It is not necessarily the case that I reject some of Transport Scotland’s arguments, but I would not want to rule out a public inquiry if Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government are unable to move the project forward in some way.’

He concluded: ‘I suggest that we go back to Transport Scotland and make it clear that it is implicit in its submission that it intends to do something, and we will consider afresh whether a public inquiry is necessary, contingent on whether any progress has been made on the issue.’

Councillor Kelly told the Courier: ‘We are pleased that the petitions committee has agreed to write directly to Transport Scotland in an attempt to tie it down to a start date for a permanent solution to be implemented at the Rest and Be Thankful, whilst at the same time continuing to ask for full scrutiny on the cost of this project so far.

‘It is our intention to submit a supplementary submission to be considered by the committee at its next meeting to keep up the pressure for the scrutiny aspect of this saga.’