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Thursday, November 4, 1999 Published at 18:38 GMT

UK: Scotland

Roads plans prompt mixed reactions

Opposition parties condemned the transport proposals

The Scottish Executive's roads review programme has been savagely attacked by opposition parties and received a mixed reaction from business and pressure groups.

Political correspondent John Morrison reports on the transport debate
Transport Minister Sarah Boyack, who considered 17 different projects, has announced plans for five trunk road projects, with the use of private funding investigated in transforming the A77 into a motorway.

The minister, who has ruled out proposals for introducing tolls on existing roads, also rejected plans for charges on the new developments.

[ image: Kenny McAskill: Shambles accusation]
Kenny McAskill: Shambles accusation
However, the proposals, contained in the Strategic Roads Review, have come under fierce assault, not least from the Scottish National Party and the Tories.

SNP Transport spokesman, Kenny McAskill, said the roads review was a shambles which lacked strategy and vision.

Speaking after the minister's announcement to the Scottish Parliament, he said the administration had demonstrated nothing but uncertainty on transport issues and on the issue of road tolls in particular.

He said: "Labour's policy on tolls appears as if it was formulated in the nursery. Like the Grand Old Duke of York, they've marched us up to the top of the hill and they've marched us down again.

"Now, though, they're thinking of taking us half way up, so we're neither up nor down. 'We're not tolling all roads but we are reserving the right to toll new roads'.

"Leadership, vision, strategy? Come on down, what a shambles."

Scottish businesses

Conservative spokesman, Murray Tosh, said the Scottish Executive's £66m transport plans were miserly and would do nothing to help Scottish businesses.

The Automobile Association, which has voiced concern over what it views as a lack of attention to congestion on Scotland's roads, dubbed the announcement a "slap in the face" for motorists.

Spokesman Neil Gregg said: "We're very disappointed. Scottish motorists have been waiting two-and-a-half years and we don't seem to be any further forward.

"One scheme, the A1, getting the go-ahead, possible private finance for the M77 and the rest of the schemes seem to be in a state of limbo."

Jackie O'Brien reports on the battle to improve the "rocky road to the isles"
CBI Scotland director, Iain McMillan, welcomed the upgrade of the A77 but expressed disappointment that proposals for further work on the M74 and A8000 would be referred to local authorities.

"The decision to defer upgrading the M80 and M8 until more study work has been done, is a recipe for delay and a worsening environmental impact," he added.

The British Road Federation also accused the executive of overlooking "missing links" in the transport network.

However, A77 campaigner, Catriona Cochrane, expressed delight at motorway proposals for the route.

She said: "I'm thrilled. We've got the road that we were hoping for. A very well conceived road which will mean a lot of benefits for the people of Ayrshire."

The upgrading of the A830 Arisaig to Kinsadel section of the Mallaig road, known as the road to the Isles, was also welcomed.

Former MP, Lord Russell Johnston, began campaigning for improvements to the notorious route in the Commons over 30 years ago and said he was glad to see the end of what turned into a "desperate struggle" for those seeking a more accessibe route.

He said: "One felt so helpless, because one continually raised the issue again and again, went to see ministers, and put down questions. There were even demonstrations at one stage."

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