Tories urge SNP to commit to road-building after Holyrood deal with Greens

THE SCOTTISH Conservatives are calling on the SNP Government to commit to support improvements to crucial trunk roads – amid claims they have been “neglected” since Nicola Sturgeon’s party came to power 14 years ago. The party will use one of its business slots at Holyrood to warn that major infrastructure projects are at risk after the SNP entered a co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens. In its manifesto ahead of May’s Holyrood election, the Greens said they would “cease funding road building projects that add capacity to the network” adding the party would “redirect funds toward safety improvements, maintenance of existing infrastructure, public transport, cycling and walking”.

The manifesto added that the party “will reclaim road space for outdoor leisure and commercial opportunities”. The Greens have accused the Tories of being out of step with global efforts on climate change – labelling their perspective as “science-denying extremism”. At tomorrow’s debate, the Tories will call on the SNP to decide whether they will side with the Greens or back funding being used for roads infrastructure.

The main opposition party has raised fears that plans to fully dual the A9 and A96 may not proceed as planned over the next decade. The Tories will also highlight the need for the SNP-Green coalition to commit to upgrading other major roads including the A75 and A77 in the south west of Scotland, the A83 Rest and Be Thankful and for Scottish ministers to work with the UK Government to fully dual the A1. Scottish Conservative transport spokesperson, Graham Simpson, said: “The SNP have neglected many critical trunk roads across Scotland during their 14 years in charge.

“With them now in coalition with the extremist Greens, there are real fears that crucial upgrades won’t take place. “Our debate will challenge the SNP into making a decision once and for all. Will they bow to their coalition-of-chaos partners or will they stand up for drivers who are crying out for roads that are fit for purpose?”

He added: “Right across Scotland, drivers are being left in limbo under this SNP-Green coalition. By backing plans to dual or significantly upgrade many trunk roads, the SNP could give a real shot in the arm to our recovery from Covid. “Everyone recognises the need to tackle the climate emergency.

However, Scotland also needs infrastructure in place that helps to grow our economy and reduces disruption for drivers. “This debate will shine a light on how committed the SNP are to upgrading our roads. Currently, their plans are simply not ambitious enough.”

An independent report, commissioned and published by Transport Scotland in September, insisted that demand for roads must be cut if Scotland is to meet its net zero commitments by 2045. The report said that substantial behaviour change is required on car travel, regardless of the scale of a move to electric vehicles. The Element Energy document also asked ministers to consider shifting 23% of freight goods currently transported by road to rail and ships by 2030.

The Scottish Government has pledged to cut car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030, but is yet to set out the detailed strategy of how that will be achieved. Scottish Greens transport spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “Before the colossal failure of leadership by the UK Government at COP, the Scottish Conservatives brought a motion to parliament about expanding oil and gas production. “The summit has just concluded and now they are bringing one about getting more cars on the road.

This is science-denying extremism by a party who have nothing to say beyond constitutional positioning.” He added: “As evident in the co-operation deal between Greens in government and the just-published national planning framework, the days of endless 1960s-style road expansions are over. “This century it is incumbent on governments to plan responsibly by investing in a low carbon future, while ensuring that the road network remains safe and climate-proofed, like new infrastructure at Rest and Be Thankful.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that days after COP26 concluded in Glasgow, this debate will centre around road building. “The sustainable investment hierarchy, as set out in Scotland’s National Transport Strategy (NTS2), is clear that we will not build infrastructure to cater for forecasts of unconstrained increases in traffic volumes. This approach is embedded in the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), which is due to conclude soon and will set out future investment in our transport network.

“We need to balance the extensive changes required to meet a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions with our duty to ensure that Scotland has high quality infrastructure to meet the needs of all our residents, businesses and visitors. That is why we are continuing work on our programme of trunk road improvement schemes to improve resilience, safety and deliver sustainable inclusive growth for the people of Scotland. “We remain committed to dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness, investing in a long term solution to address resilience of the A83 and we will take forward a transport enhancements programme on the A96 that improves connectivity between surrounding towns, tackles congestion and addresses safety and environmental issues.

“Transport is devolved to Holyrood, and while we will always seek to engage constructively with the UK Government – for example, on cross border rail and our shared desire for HS2 to serve Scotland – UK Ministers have no role in deciding investment in Scotland’s trunk roads.

“If UK ministers want to play a helpful role, then they could simply deliver the funding we need for such infrastructure investment in line with established budgetary mechanisms for Scotland to determine our spending priorities.”