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by Jenni Davidson
15 October 2019
Investment in roads still needed in face of climate crisis, SNP ministers confirm

Fergus Ewing - Image credit: David Anderson

Investment in roads still needed in face of climate crisis, SNP ministers confirm

Investment in roads is still a necessity, even in the face of the climate emergency, two Scottish Government minsters affirmed at Holyrood fringe events at the SNP conference in Aberdeen.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said he would make “no apology” about continuing with the dualling of the A9 because it was a matter of safety, while transport secretary Michael Matheson said that “road investment will still be needed no matter what”.

Asked in a Holyrood fringe event on the rural economy about improvements that could be made to Scotland’s rural roads, either to widen single track roads or strengthen verges, Ewing noted that the road network, particularly in areas such as the Highlands and the North East, was “of concern to an awful lot of people”

He said that investment in roads was still needed.

“Whether cars are powered by petrol diesel or electricity or, indeed, hydrogen, we will still need, in rural Scotland, cars,” he said.

“Cars are still a necessity not a luxury and I think we have to recognise that because people that I represent, a lot of people complain about the state of the roads …

“We need an improved rail network, but we do need an improved road network as well.

“And the A9 dualling, not only is it necessary for the economy, for ease of convenience, but also, fewer people lose their lives on dual carriageway. Crossover accidents are horrific.

“I think we probably all know people who’ve lost their lives or who have seen family members suffer horrific injuries, so I make no apology about it, we will continue to need a good, decent road network for people in Scotland.”

Ewing continued that he didn’t think it was anti-green to say that because in future the cars are likely to be electric anyway.

“Perhaps it might take a bit longer than some people think, but if there’s a new road built, the A9/A96, then for most of the duration of the investment in that road, it won’t be petrol vehicles going on that road, it will be green vehicles going on the road,” he said.

“So I do think the Green argument there is somewhat exaggerated by neglecting to consider actually that their aspirations will be realised.

“You know, sometimes I wonder if they’re a bit disappointed about that myself,” he added.

The same point was made in a second Holyrood fringe event on the future of transport and infrastructure, where transport secretary Michael Matheson was challenged on whether continuing to invest in roads while dealing with a climate crisis was a “dilemma or a contradiction”.

He resplied: “We’ll continue to make sure we have the right type of road infrastructure to support local communities and local businesses.

“So, the dualling of the A9 is a £3bn infrastructure project, the biggest infrastructure project ever in Scotland, which is critical to support the communities that are served by the A9 and into the Highlands and Inverness and then the dualing between Inverness and Aberdeen, across here the A96, again, to help support those communities and the need for good road connectivity.

“So, road investment will still be needed no matter what.

“What we’re trying to achieve though, is to try and create the right type of balance.”

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