SCOTTISH Conservatives are calling on the SNP government to commit to supporting improvements to crucial national 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 trading slots in Holyrood to warn that large infrastructure projects are under threat after the SNP reaches a cooperation deal with the Scottish Greens.
In its manifesto ahead of the May elections in Holyrood, the Greens said they would “stop funding road construction projects that add capacity to the network”, adding that the party “would redirect funds to road improvements. safety, maintenance of existing infrastructure, public transport, cycling and walking “. .
The manifesto added that the party “will reclaim road space for outdoor recreation and business opportunities.”
The Greens accused the Tories of being out of step with global efforts on climate change – calling their perspective “science-denying extremism.”
In tomorrow’s debate, the conservatives will ask the SNP to decide whether they will side with the Greens or whether they will support the funding used for road infrastructure.
The main opposition party has raised concerns that plans to completely overtake the A9 and A96 may not go 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 South West Scotland, the A83 Rest and Be Thankful and for Scottish ministers to work with the UK government to fully double the A1.
Scottish Conservative transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said: “The SNP has neglected many critical national roads across Scotland during its 14 years in office.
“With them now in coalition with the extremist Greens, there are real fears that crucial improvements will not take place.
“Our debate will challenge the SNP to make a decision once and for all. Will they bow to their chaos coalition partners or will they stand up for drivers who demand roads that are suited to their needs? ”
He added: “Drivers across Scotland are left in limbo under this SNP-Greens coalition. By supporting plans to double or significantly modernize many national roads, the SNP could give our recovery from Covid a real boost.
“Everyone recognizes the need to fight the climate emergency. However, Scotland also needs infrastructure in place that helps grow our economy and reduce disruption for drivers.
“This debate will highlight the SNP’s commitment to improving 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 reduced if Scotland is to meet its net zero commitments by 2045.
The report says substantial behavior change is needed for car travel, regardless of the extent of the shift to electric vehicles.
The Element Energy document also called on ministers to consider shifting 23% of freight currently transported by road to rail and ships by 2030.
The Scottish government has pledged to cut kilometers driven by 20% by 2030, but has yet to define a detailed strategy on how to achieve this.
Scottish Greens’ transport spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “Before the UK government’s colossal leadership failure at the COP, the Scottish Conservatives have presented a motion to parliament on expanding oil production and gas.
“The summit just ended and now they are bringing one on putting more cars on the road. This is science-denying extremism from a party that has nothing to say beyond it. constitutional position. ”
He added: “As the cooperation agreement between the Greens in government and the newly released national planning framework shows, 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 resilient, like the new infrastructure of Rest and Be Thankful. ”
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that a few days after the conclusion of COP26 in Glasgow this debate is focused on road building.
“The hierarchy of sustainable investments, as set out in Scotland’s National Transport Strategy (NTS2), makes it clear that we will not build infrastructure to meet the forecast for unconstrained increases in traffic volumes. . This approach is integrated in the second review of strategic transport projects (STPR2), which should be completed soon and will define future investments in our transport network.
‘We need to balance the significant changes needed to achieve a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions with our duty to ensure Scotland has high quality infrastructure to meet the needs of all our residents, businesses and visitors. . This is why we are continuing to work on our National Roads Improvement Projects program to improve resilience, safety and ensure inclusive and sustainable growth for the people of Scotland.
“We remain committed to doubling the A9 between Perth and Inverness, investing in a long-term solution to address the resilience of the A83 and we will implement a transport improvement program on the A96 that improves connectivity between surrounding cities, tackles congestion and addresses safety and environmental issues.
“Transport is devolved to Holyrood, and while we always seek to engage constructively with the UK government – for example, on cross-border rail and our common desire for HS2 to serve Scotland – UK ministers did no role to play in the decision to invest in major Scottish highways. .
“If UK ministers are to play a meaningful role, they could simply provide the funding we need for such infrastructure investments in line with the budgetary mechanisms established for Scotland to determine our spending priorities.”