Scots drivers facing crumbling motorways amid budget cuts

Scotland's motorway surfaces have taken a pounding, with almost half needing to be resurfaced, latest figures show. Picture: John Devlin
Scotland's motorway surfaces have taken a pounding, with almost half needing to be resurfaced, latest figures show. Picture: John Devlin
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The surfaces of Scotland’s motorways are in worse condition and deteriorating faster than other roads, public spending watchdogs revealed today.

The proportion of motorways which need resurfacing has increased from 30 to 42 per cent in three years.

The state of our roads is a major concern for the public. Their voice needs to be listened to

Douglas Sinclair, Accounts Commission

By contrast, the figure for other roads has remained unchanged at 37 per cent, Audit Scotland found.

It called on both Transport Scotland, which is responsible for trunk roads, and local authorities, which care for all other roads, to urgently improve the way they work.

Motorways have been historically the country’s best-maintained roads, but the watchdog’s report said less was being spent on them, with more patching work rather than more significant repairs.

It said Transport Scotland had cut spending on trunk roads by 4 per cent to £162 million over the three-year period between 2011-12 and 2014-15.

The Scottish Government agency also reduced structural maintenance by more than one third. This contributed to the proportion of motorways needing repair, including to their lower layers, increasing by 5 per cent to 26 per cent.

Motorways carry more than one third of Scotland’s traffic and almost two in three heavy lorries.

The report found other trunk roads, such as dual carriageways, to be in better shape, which was virtually unchanged from 2011.

A total of 14-21 per cent needed resurfacing and 10-13 per cent further work.

The state of Scotland’s other roads, maintained by councils, was unchanged despite a 14 per cent cut in spending.

However, there was a wide variation nationally, with Argyll and Bute worst with 56 per cent of its roads needing repairs compared to 21 per cent in best-performing Orkney.

The Western Isles, though among the worst, was most improved, along with East Renfrewshire and Aberdeen Scottish Borders Council saw the greatest deterioration, followed by Highland and East Lothian.

Accounts Commission chair Douglas Sinclair said: “The state of our roads is a major concern for the public. Surveys show that they remain dissatisfied, despite these concerns being flagged up in our two previous reports. Their voice needs to be listened to.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “This is a damning report which exposes how the SNP has let the state of Scotland’s roads slip significantly.

“It’s incredible to think that in some parts of Scotland there are more bad roads than good.”

Neil Bibby, his Scottish Labour counterpart, said: “This expert report is making the urgent case for action on the poor condition of our roads network. We are seeing a consistent pattern from the SNP of failing to invest properly in our infrastructure.”

Scottish Liberal Democrats transport spokesman Mike Rumbles said: “Councils have been put under huge financial pressure by the SNP government and this is the result. These figures suggest there could be 12,400 miles of road which need repairs but we are millions of pounds short of investing enough to simply maintain current conditions.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Audit Scotland recognises the vast majority of the trunk road network is in an acceptable condition. The number of people satisfied with the condition of trunk roads has increased by 5 per cent since last year.”

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which represents councils, hailed the lack of deterioration overall.

Stephen Hagan, its development, economy and sustainability spokesman, said: “Councils have done a good job with less resource.

“It is clear that some councils, despite the financial challenges, have chosen to invest in road quality while others, for perfectly valid reasons, have chosen to spend scarce resource on other vital services.”