Autumn Statement: A75 upgrade study triggers new Conservatives-SNP row

A new political row erupted over upgrading the road through southern Scotland which carried 40 per cent of Northern Ireland’s exports after the Scottish Conservatives accused the SNP of “dragging its feet” over the scheme.

Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservatives’ finance spokesperson, welcomed Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s announcement in his Autumn Statement that the UK Government would “work with its Scottish counterparts on the feasibility study for the A75”, which connects the M74 and M6 at Gretna with the Cairnryan ferry ports near Stranraer.

She said: “The news that the UK Government will fund a feasibility study on upgrading the A75 is hugely encouraging, given the SNP have dragged their feet on this."

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It comes after Transport Secretary Michael Matheson attacked the inclusion of the scheme in the UK Government’s Union Connectivity Review to improve cross-Border links last year, arguing that it was a devolved issue and the Scottish Government was doing its own study.

The single carriageway A75 is a key lorry route connecting the M74 and M6 at Gretna with the Cairnryan ferry ports

The then UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pledged £20 million for “exploring the development of projects”, including upgrading the single carriageway road and cross-Border rail improvements.

The UK Treasury said on Thursday: “We’re reconfirmed our commitment to work with the Scottish Government. The UK Government has offered funding to support [the A75 work], subject to a business case from the Scottish Government.”

However, a spokesperson for transport minister Jenny Gilruth said: “This demonstrates what we in Scotland have known for some time – the Tories over promise and can’t be trusted to deliver for the people and businesses of the south west of Scotland. We have been engaging collaboratively with UK Government counterparts now for some time and actively working on the business case for A75 improvements.

“Until now, the UK Government has failed to commit any funding for design or development work on the A75. Until we actually see the colour of their money, we will continue to focus on our proposals for future investment that we set out in the draft second Strategic Transport Projects Review that was published in January.”

But a UK Government source said: “We’re really encouraged by the Scottish Government’s willingness to work with us. We recognised transport is devolved and there will be a process of negotiation, but the A75 is also a major route between Belfast and Manchester.”

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