Dedicated funding to fix Scotland’s potholes is needed to prevent councillors having to make “impossible” choices between roads and social care, a leading highways official has urged.
Angus Bodie said urgent action was required because this winter was likely to have caused the most damage to roads for more than a decade.
The manager of the Roads Collaboration Programme, a co-ordinating body for Scottish roads authorities, said roads may be in a worse state than official surveys showed because these only measured a small proportion.
He said compiling information from drivers would provide a fuller picture. Bodie said: “The official road condition index appears to show it is relatively stable, but that does not chime with drivers’ experience.
“There is no doubt the winter we have just been through has been very extreme. The condition of road surfaces has deteriorated much faster than in the previous few years.”
Bodie said it may have been worse than the winters of 2009 and 2010 because there has been more “freeze thaw”.
This is when water seeps through cracks, freezes and expands, breaking up the road surface – which is then repeated.
Bodie said funding roads separately from other council services should be considered, with money being split off from the main Scottish Government grant to local authorities.
He said: “It is not fair local politicians should have to make the choice between funding social care or roads.
“We need to find a way of releasing them from making impossible decisions”.
AA president Edmund King said: “We have called for pothole funding to be ring-fenced for over a decade.”
Neil Greig, policy and research director of IAM RoadSmart, said: “The concept of ‘customer care’ is totally absent from road maintenance, so measuring improvement in driver and rider satisfaction and setting tough performance targets would have our full support.”
RAC Foundation spokesman Phil Gomm said: “It’s time for the road system to be viewed as much of a national asset as the water, power and telecoms networks and receive the level of funding it deserves.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The recent severe weather led to local authorities incurring unexpected additional costs to their maintenance budgets, and simultaneously caused more damage to Scotland’s road network.
“That is why we have made an additional £10 million available to councils.”
But he said they were responsible for their own budgets and allocating them “on the basis of local needs and priorities”.