Why politicians in Scotland (and across the world) should fear our rage over potholes – Scotsman comment

Any guide for aspiring politicians that fails to mention the importance of potholes is probably not worth reading.

Some 'potholes' are bigger than others but whatever their size they are an issue that angers many people (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Some 'potholes' are bigger than others but whatever their size they are an issue that angers many people (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

It is an issue that fires popular outrage far more than esoteric debates about “endogenous growth theory” and the like. And not just among drivers. A cyclist who discovers a large pothole at the side of the road just as a lorry overtakes too closely knows the meaning of fear.

According to new figures, the number of potholes on Scotland’s trunk roads has gone up from about 4,000 in 2007 to 21,000. The Scottish Conservatives’ Miles Briggs claimed our roads were “plagued by potholes” and attacked “14 years of SNP centralisation and cuts to local services”.

Whatever the Scottish government says about how much they are doing to repair our roads, Briggs’ complaints will chime with many who have had an recent unhappy encounter with a hole that simply should not have been there.

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Such is our fury, we may think our potholes must surely be the worst in the world. However, it turns out this is a trait shared by many people all over the world – and some may have more grounds for complaint than we have.

‘Guerrilla gardeners’ have taken to filling potholes with flowers in countries including the US, Canada, Ukraine, Bosnia, and, of course, the UK as a gentle and creative form of protest. One community activist in South Africa, Rishi Pooran, became so frustrated by the lack of action that he even planted banana trees.

Our pothole problem may not be quite as bad as that. But that everyone would rather they were promptly filled in remains a universal political truth.

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