SNP-Conservatives tensions as UK Government awards £8m to kickstart upgrading A75 to Cairnryan ports
Upgrading a key route for Irish ferry traffic in south-west Scotland was awarded £8 million of UK Government funding amid continuing tensions with Scottish ministers, to whom such projects are devolved.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the money would enable the Scottish Government to develop options to “considerably” speed up journeys on the single-carriageway A75 between the M6 at Gretna and the Cairnryan ports with a feasibility study into bypassing the adjoining villages of Springholm and Crocketford, west of Dumfries.
The A75 scheme was among proposals in the UK Government-commissioned Union Connectivity Review (UCR) to improve links between the UK nations. The-then transportsSecretary Michael Matheson had condemned the review as a “blatant power grab” since much of transport is devolved to Scotland.
However, the Scottish Government subsequently applied for funding for the A75 under the review and then complained it had been waiting six months for approval when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak included the scheme among alternatives to the HS2 to Manchester rail line, which he scrapped in September.
The Scottish Government has been separately considering plans to improve the A75 under its Strategic Transport Projects Review 2, but has complained about funding for such capital projects being cut by the UK Government.
Its Transport Scotland agency said capital spending had been squeezed by the UK Government’s 7 per cent cut in real terms in its capital budget, “significantly affecting our ability to maintain investment on not just the A75, but transport infrastructure across Scotland”.
At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Humza Yousaf brushed aside Scottish Conservatives’ welcome for the A75 cash, describing it as merely “committed funding towards a review”. He said: “What would really help is if the UK Government did not cut our capital budget by 10 per cent over five years, which would allow us to invest in our capital projects”.
There was no explicit welcome either from transport minister Fiona Hyslop, who said: “We continue to engage pro-actively with the UK Government and we await their confirmation of when funding will be received.”
Mr Jack said the UK Government’s plans to work with the Scottish Government to upgrade the A75 was “at the heart” of its response to the UCR.
He said: “This narrow road has been wholly inadequate given it’s supposed to be the main artery linking Northern Ireland to the north of England through south-west Scotland.
“We are committing £8m to the Scottish Government to develop options to improve the A75. Then we will provide further cash to deliver those targeted improvements by alleviating ‘pinch points’ on the road.
"As transport is devolved, it is for the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to develop the options and deliver the subsequent improvements.
“However, it is right and proper that the UK Government takes a strategic approach to transport across the UK. Hence our decision to enable A75 work by providing the cash for the feasibility study, plus the promise of more money to come to fund the improvements it identifies.”
A spokesperson for the South West Scotland Transport Alliance, which includes ferry operators Stena Line and P&O, said: “This is the most meaningful announcement about the A75 for many years."
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