Paul Wheelhouse – Minister for roads in Holyrood government.
By Bill Heaney
With the fishing season just having got underway, there is a joke doing the rounds that anglers are being sold the fishing rights to some very large potholes in the neglected roads of West Dunbartonshire.
Humour is said to be next door to horror, however, and Holyrood parliamentarians have been warned that the potholes in question could lead to even more deaths on local roads.
Labour’s Alex Rowley revealed there are £55 billion worth of road repairs needing done in Scotland.
Local motorists using our the A82-Loch Lomond to Glasgow road and the Erskine Bridge, for example, won’t find that hard to believe.
The SNP Minister in charge of roads, Paul Wheelhouse, told Mr Rowley: “We note the challenges that face road maintenance across the network and the importance of a safe, well-performing road network. As set out in the budget, the Scottish Government expects to invest £471 million in managing, maintaining and safely operating the trunk road network in 2020-21.
“Local road maintenance is the responsibility of local authorities, which allocate resources on the basis of local priorities. Despite a £850 million real-terms cut by the United Kingdom Government to Scotland’s discretionary resource budget since 2010-11, we have ensured that local government receives a fair funding settlement that supports vital public services.”
Mr Rowley was far from pleased with the Minister’s reply, and he asked: “Would the minister consider discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to plan a strategic economic approach that would pull resources together, work with companies, create the jobs that are needed, address the skills gaps and get our roads fixed?
“There is something like £55 billion-worth of road repairs that need to be done. The poorest people have cars because they need cars; their cars get damaged as a result of the potholes and they are unable to fix their cars.
“We need a more strategic approach to national planning, which goes back to the Keynesian approach of investing in the economy, planning jobs and delivering what is desperately needed to fix our roads across Scotland. Sometimes, it is like a third-world country.”
Mr Wheelhouse replied: “We recognise the importance of this issue at a local level. Mr Rowley touched on a number of points with regard to the impact that potholes have on individuals; we recognise that there are impacts on vehicles and individuals.
“From the point of view of encouraging active travel, the road surface is important to ensuring the safe conduct of cycling on our local roads.”