A bypass at Selkirk should be a top priority for a new enterprise organisation announced this week, according to a councillor for the town.
Plans to set up a south of Scotland enterprise agency were unveiled on Tuesday by the Scottish Government to help tackle the economic challenges facing the region.
That news has met with a warm welcome across the Borders and also sparked hopes that it will lead to more investment in the infrastructure, such as roads, needed to underpin any boost for the region’s economic fortunes.
Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, would hope to see the agency supporting the A7 bypass long mooted for Selkirk.
Earlier this year a ballot was held in which 87% of townsfolk voted in favour of the bypass and just 14% against it.
Mr Edgar, vice-chairman of the A7 Action Group, said: “A bypass is one project that should be looked at, especially now there is a feasibility study on extending the Borders Railway to Hawick.
“Those two projects should proceed in tandem.
“The people of Selkirk had two ballots, and the opinion was that the bypass is desirable, and I’d like to see it given priority.”
Mr Edgar said further talks are to be held with Scottish Government transport minister Humza Yousaf in a bid to persuade him to back the project.
Ballots were held after Mr Yousaf said he wanted to know how many people in the town actually wanted the bypass, before committing Government funds to the project.
The total number of votes cast in the July ballot was 451, with 373 in favour, 66 opposed and 12 spoiled papers.
Mr Edgar added: “I think there is a momentum towards the bypass because of the economic and social benefits it would provide.
“It would also benefit the Ettrick Riverside business park, which is not full to capacity at the present time.
“Now we have the flooding sorted out, the creation of a bypass would provide the access to attract new businesses to set up there.”
In addition to an economic boost, supporters of a bypass say its advantages include an increase in public safety, reduced through-traffic and less congestion for commuters.
The A7 is the main route through the Borders, with an estimated 7,000 vehicles passing through Selkirk every day.
Previous plans for a bypass have been drawn up but have been rejected by British and Scottish governments on the grounds that the project would not be expected to have that big an impact on saving lives.
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont welcomed the creation of the new agency and said he expects it to have a major say in deciding the fate of proposals such as the Selkirk bypass.
He said: “I would expect this organisation to play a key role in promoting the views of local businesses on key infrastructure projects like the proposed Selkirk bypass and the extension of the Borders rail to Hawick and Carlisle.
“I was disappointed that the SNP refused to take forward the idea of a Selkirk bypass in the last Parliamentary session, particularly given that they campaigned on a promise to build one.
“The A7 is a major route through the Borders, and many locals continue to have concerns about safety when such a busy road goes through the heart of Selkirk.
“But clearly any diversion of the A7 must consider the impact on local businesses, and I would expect the new agency to play a major role in this.”