Minister dashes Selkirk bypass hope

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HOPES that Selkirk may finally get a bypass after a wait of 60 years, raised last year when the scheme was included for consideration by the Scottish Government, look to have been dashed again, writes Mark Entwistle.

Replying to a parliamentary question from local Conservative MSP John Lamont, the Scottish Government’s transport minister, Keith Brown, confirmed a bypass had been among the schemes included in the latest Strategic Transport Projects Review.

But he told Mr Lamont the review had concluded that it would not have a significant impact on the objective for the transport corridor of “continuing reduction in accident rates across the strategic transport network”.

The Conservative MSP claimed last week that the minister’s answer means that the Scottish National Party has reneged on a pre-election pledge to build a bypass round the royal burgh.

“The SNP has proved once again they are all talk and no action,” said Mr Lamont. “Their election campaign in Selkirk focused on the delivery of a bypass for the town and yet, despite winning a majority in the Scottish Parliament, nothing has been done.”

Not true, said Paul Wheelhouse, SNP member for the South of Scotland. He challenged the Tory MSP to produce “one shred of evidence” that either he or any government minister promised Selkirk a bypass in the run-up to last May’s parliamentary poll, or gathered signatures on a petition calling for one.

A small survey, said Mr Wheelhouse, which he undertook in January last year to question the town’s residents on a dozen different issues, had produced mixed views about a possible bypass.

“Anecdotally, while the bottleneck was well recognised by local residents as a problem, there was a concern expressed by many that unless the centre of Selkirk was itself regenerated, the need for visitor parking was addressed and a concerted effort was made to attract visitors off any A7 bypass into the town, it might have a detrimental impact on local shops,” said Mr Wheelhouse.

“I think there is therefore still some work needed in examining the scale of any net economic impact.”

But Mr Lamont claimed a bypass would create a safer environment for residents and visitors to Selkirk.

“The A7 is a major road and to have it cut through the heart of the town is causing considerable congestion and difficulties for pedestrians,” he said.

“There is no doubt there is considerable support in the town for the building of a bypass.”

Mr Lamont’s fellow Conservative, Selkirkshire councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre, who also serves as Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for planning, said: “I do hope the Scottish Government will rethink its proposal not to give any money for the improvement of Borders trunk roads. We have been waiting for a Selkirk bypass for half a century.”

Even Mr Wheelhouse’s SNP colleague, Scottish Borders councillor Kenneth Gunn, also a Selkirkshire member, believes a bypass is a necessity and wants representatives from Transport Scotland and the government to visit the town and see the issues for themselves.

“I remain, as I have been for many, many years, as committed to a Selkirk bypass as I have ever been,” added Mr Gunn.