Dualling A1 not a top priority, says minister
The Scottish Government has defended itself against claims that it is letting travellers down by failing to make improvements to the A1 in Berwickshire, calling it a 'safe route with few reliability issues'.
That response follows calls by Borders MP John Lamont and MSP Rachael Hamilton for the Holyrood administration to carry out further improvements to the Edinburgh-London road here to match those planned south of the border.
Their calls come after the UK Government announced last week that it will upgrade the A1 in England to motorway standard as far north as Newcastle.
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP Mr Lamont said: “The UK Government has acknowledged the A1 is a weakness. Now, it is time the SNP government stopped dithering, reached the same conclusion and took action to make significant improvements to the A1.
“For too long, the SNP government has only paid lip service to the A1 and not addressed those issues that hold back growth in Scotland.
“The A1 is vital to the Borders economy, particularly Berwickshire’s, which is only being held back by the SNP’s inaction.”
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Mrs Hamilton added: “The SNP has had 10 years to fix our roads, but here we are again waiting for it to come to the same conclusion everyone else already has.
“The inadequacies of the A1 are plain for us all to see, but seemingly not the SNP.
“I want to see the dualling of the A1, and I want to see significant improvements made that will help not only the Borders economy, but also Scotland’s.”
However, SNP South Scotland list MSP Paul Wheelhouse warned that more problems could be created if the A1 was fully dualled.
The business, innovation and energy minister claimed that Mr Lamont “has a history of jumping on bandwagons, and he is at it again”, adding: “Full dualling of the A1 may not be the answer to local needs, but rather it may exacerbate the area as one people merely travel through rather than stopping in to spend money, as well as potentially causing the unnecessary demolition of properties.
“Unless it is well designed, a dualled A1 may create more problems than it solves.
“My priority for local transport spending locally, aside from A1 safety improvements, is to see the restoration of re-established railway services at Reston station, and East Linton, as soon as possible, so we can benefit further from rail services.
“This will provide local people and tourists with an improved alternative to car travel on the Edinburgh-Berwick corridor and is a project strongly supported by our local communities and the local business community.”
A Scottish Government spokesman added: “We understand the importance of the A1 to local communities and as a strategic transport link. Our analysis suggests it is a generally safe route with few reliability issues.
“The majority of the road in Scotland is dualled, and our operating company, Amey, carries out regular reviews and takes action to improve safety where required.
“Transport Scotland has recently started work on a Borders transport corridors study examining the case for an extension of the Borders railway, along with improvements to the A1, A7 and A68.”
He said the Edinburgh-Tweedbank railway has also provided a huge opportunity for the region, with Borders College reporting an increase in course applications, boosting social inclusion, encouraging more sustainable transport and reversing the decline in the Borders population by providing easier access to Edinburgh’s job market.
He added: “However, there is a lot more work to do, and any regeneration project on this scale takes years to fulfil its potential, which is why the Borders blueprint group has been tasked with doing just that.”