A LOCAL roads campaigner has hailed as a breakthrough news that the Scottish Government may consider alternative funding sources to upgrade an accident blackspot on the A90.
Jill Campbell, from Hillside, said Transport Minister Alex Neil had been approached by local MSP Nigel Don with a view to holding talks about funding from outside the Scottish Government for a grade separated junction near Marykirk. She was told on Friday that Mr Neil’s department would be willing to consider other options.
If the talks take place, it will mark a turnaround in the government’s line on the junction which has so far ruled out alternative funding.
Mrs Campbell said: “I have been talking with local developers who are building in Laurencekirk and I can say that the transport minister was asked to just look at other options as to how the fly-over could be achieved, and he has agreed to that.
“That’s a very good sign as far as I’m concerned and I know that some developers have already approached Transport Scotland with other alternatives. It looks like the government is now looking at this which is promising as up to now it hasn’t been willing to speak about it.
“I’m hoping to meet with the transport minister and the developer in the near future.”
Previous Transport Minister Keith Brown called for Transport Scotland to produce more detailed costings for a grade separated junction as estimates have varied wildly between £4 million and £23 million, leading to accusations that Transport Scotland was trying to avoid the issue and made it difficult for campaigners to argue their case.
Pressure is mounting on the new SNP administration at Holyrood to tackle the matter and at last Thursday’s Question Time north east Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes called on the Scottish Government to “honour their campaign promises” and act on making it safer.
She challenged the Transport Minister over whether the government would now commit to building a grade separated junction.
Mrs McInnes said: “The SNP’s election campaign in the north east highlighted Laurencekirk junction as one of their priorities, so I am disappointed that the Transport Minister still won’t commit to building a grade separated junction.
“I was pleased earlier this year when the government finally agreed to look into various options for improving safety on the A90 at Laurencekirk. But to now say that a decision on whether to act will be taken based on cost is deeply worrying.
“The junction has seen four fatal and dozens more serious accidents occur in the last decade. Even one is too many. The government must take whatever action is necessary to make this junction safe.”
Local councillor David May also said it is time action is taken.
He said: “I’ve worked to support the campaign to improve safety at Laurencekirk junction for many years – it is clear to everyone in the local area that something must be done.
“I look forward to seeing the final report on options for the junction in the summer, and I intend to keep up the pressure on the Transport Minister to act.”
Mrs Campbell added that she is hopeful that the problem is now being recognised at Holyrood.
She said: “The people of the north east put their faith in the SNP when they were elected and they have to show the people of the north east that they recognised Scotland doesn’t stop at the Central Belt. We matter up here too.”