Aitchison renews A7 minister invite

a COUNCILLOR campaigning for a dangerous stretch of the Borders’ busiest road to be upgraded was nearly involved in an accident himself on the route.

Sandy Aitchison narrowly avoided a crash last Tuesday on the A7 between his home in Stow and Galashiels.

And he has now invited Scottish Government Transport Minister Keith Brown to see for himself the state of the notorious 20-mile section of the A7 between Galashiels and Middleton Moor in Midlothian.

Speaking to TheSouthern, Councillor Aitchison said: “Only today (Tuesday) on my way to council I nearly had a very bad accident. “On the dip at Hawkburn, a large articulated truck crossed over the white lines and nearly took me out. I had the presence of mind to check my speed and it was 51 miles per hour.”

TheSouthern reported last month that Mr Aitchison and the Stow and Fountainhall Community Council chair Diana Muir had both written to Mr Brown demanding the Government take action on the A7 from the Kingsknowes roundabout at Galashiels to the Edinburgh City Bypass.

Cash-strapped Scottish Borders Council - who have looked after that section since it was de-trunked in 1996 - say there are no plans for improvements in its current capital financial plan.

And Isobel Hutchison, whose son Stuart lost his life in a road accident near Stow in September 2009, added her support to the campaign, saying on average one person had been killed per year for the last eight years along the windy route.

In response to Ms Muir’s letter, a Transport Scotland representative, on behalf of Mr Brown, defended the Scottish Government’s record in the Borders.

The spokesman said the Government had provided Scottish Borders Council with £235million this year in funding.

He added: “The vast majority of this funding, including for local roads, is provided by means of a block grant.

“It is the responsibility of each local authority to allocate the total financial resources available to it on the basis of local needs and priorities having first fulfilled its statutory obligations and the jointly agreed set of national and local priorities including the Scottish Government’s key strategic objectives.”

The letter continued: “Let me reassure you that road safety is of paramount importance to Scottish Ministers who, of course, share your concerns about accidents which occur on Scotland’s roads.”

Ms Muir raised the issue of re-trunking the A7 from Galashiels northwards, arguing vehicle numbers on the route were on the rise.

The Transport Scotland spokesman replied: “Scottish Ministers are obliged to keep the trunk road network under continual review.

“The evidence gathered by the STPR (Strategic Transport Projects Review) did not highlight or suggest that any fundamental changes were required in the balance between the national strategic trunk road network and the local authority road network.

“With regards increases in traffic volume on the A7, our most recent analysis in respect of the Borders Railway forecasts that its introduction will reduce trips made by car along the route of the railway corridor by approximately 530,000 annually.

“A proportion of these changes in travel behaviour will originate from rail passengers in the Scottish Borders who currently make use of the A7 by car.”

But Galashiels Councillor Aitchison was less than satisfied with the reply.

He added: “My reaction to the letter is that it does not address the safety fears of the people who live along and use the A7.

“I have noticed a greater police activity on the A7. For example, it is now quite common to see the police camera van parked at the layby immediately north of Crookston North Lodge (near Heriot), a notorious black spot. To me, that is tacit acceptance that this is a dangerous spot which could be corrected.”

Councillor Aitchison added: “I will be trying again to invite the Minister to visit and see.”