Ian Blackford’s plan to force motor homes to pull over is ‘populist nonsense’
BY Lucy Ashton
One of Scotland’s leading motoring experts has blasted calls for a crackdown on camper vans and motor homes in the Highlands by a former leader of the SNP.
The party’s former Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, says the drivers of holiday vehicles should be “compelled” to pull over to let locals and other frustrated drivers get past and banned from travelling in convoys.
The MP for Skye, Lochaber and Wester Ross made the calls in a letter to transport minister Fiona Hyslop. He said: “Sadly, there have been a number of serious incidents on our roads this summer and it is right that we consider how we can enhance road safety to keep people safe.
Mr Blackford wants the Scottish Government to introduce a new code of conduct for motor homes to compel drivers to pull over if they are causing a tailback of traffic and to prohibit them travelling in convoys.
He is also calling for more ‘Drive on the Left’ signs in three languages and for all rental vehicles in Scotland to have compulsory ‘Drive on the Left’ stickers and signage.
However, Neil Greig of the Institute of Advanced Motoring (IAM) criticised the idea of a set of laws targeting one group of road users and said they would only work with greater investment in police, better quality lay-bys and road layouts. “This strikes me as populist nonsense,” said Mr Greig.
“As anyone who has actually driven up the A9 and other roads in the Highlands recently will know most of these ideas are already in place. Electronic and fixed road signs implore tractors, HGVs and motor homes to pull over and in some cases new lay-bys have been provided to allow them to do so. Enforcement powers already exist which would allow the police to book the most obvious offenders.”
In an interview with the Herald, he added that one “quick solution” to easing congestion would be to extend the mph HG V speed limit on the A9 to all single-carriageway roads
He said: “Drivers seem happy to sit behind a lorry at 50 rather than 40 before looking for a safe overtaking opportunities. Longer term more overtaking lanes and dualling for the busiest road is the real solution.”
There has been a rise in organised motorhome holidays on the popular North Coast 500 road route in recent years. Two years ago, a Perth-based motorhome hire firm advised customers to avoid the route due to “aggressive locals”.
A message on the Scottish Tourer Motorhome Hire company website stated: “Unfortunately it is a victim of its own success with the roads crammed with tourists but especially the huge influx of motorhomes and the narrow roads and delicate infrastructure simply is unable to cope, to the point where some locals are now aggressive towards motorhomes.
“In recent weeks we have had tyres slashed, wheel trims stolen, motorhomes being egged and also cartons of yoghurt thrown at our motorhomes along this route. We have designed motorhome friendly routes which are far more scenic where you can holiday in peace and quiet. Please ask us for details.”
Meanwhile, the Express is reporting that a camper van burst into flames in the Highlands leaving two female tourists stranded. The duo have been stuck on the Black Isle following the blaze on Friday with no way to get home.
Ellie O’Brien and her friend had travelled up from England to visit her father in a care home in the fishing village of Cromarty when the fire broke out. They parked next to the beach and had just exited the van when flames began spouting from the vehicle.
Ms O’Brien explained what happened on a GoFundMe page set up after the incident. It reads: “As I got out the car, my friend screamed and I turned to see flames shooting up in the front cab.
“Running back we got the dogs out and I jumped in the back to get the fire extinguisher. When that was empty I jumped back in the back again to get the fire blanket out. Neither worked. The van was full of thick black smoke and we were very aware that it had 3/4 diesel in and a gas canister. So we moved to safety.
“999 was obviously called but due to where we were this took some time to get to us. The van burnt for almost an hour. The fire brigade were amazing as were the paramedics who checked us out for smoke inhalation and shock. They believe it was just a freak accident as the engine was off, keys out and no warning signs or suggestion of what caused this.
“The most important thing is we are safe. We got out and the two dogs got out as well. We are immensely lucky that this didn’t happen whilst we were asleep. However, it has left us stranded. The local people have been beyond amazing and rallied around us. But the van was our accommodation as well as our transport.”
Top picture: A packed car park on the A82 Loch Lomondside road north of Tarbert.