Campaigners in Scotland have accused Ministers of leaving roads to ‘rot’ over the last six years due to lack of investment.
The Times reports that the drop has coincided with the electoral pacts between SNP governments and the Scottish Greens. Opposition parties have called for the first minister Humza Yousaf’s administration to sever ties with the “anti-car” party after it was shown that spending on major routes had dropped from £502 million in 2016-17 to £26 million in 2022-23.
Motoring organisations said that trunk roads were “critical infrastructure” requiring constant funding for safety improvements.
The figures on spending on the A-road trunk routes were disclosed after a freedom of information request from the Scottish Conservatives, said the Times report.
The SNP-Green alliance has been criticised for presiding over significant delays in projects such as the dualling of the A9 and improvements to the A96, connecting Aberdeen and Inverness, and the A75, linking Dumfries with Stranraer.
The Scottish Conservatives said that the “almost uninterrupted erosion” in spending on road infrastructure coincides with the period of SNP-Green collaboration, first with “confidence and supply” arrangements after the 2016 Scottish parliament elections and then after the more formal Bute House agreement in 2021.
Both deals were designed to prop up a minority SNP government at Holyrood, embedding a pro-independence majority.
The coalition is under increasing criticism for its failure to upgrade trunk routes. Graham Simpson, the Conservative transport spokesman, said the spending figures help explain the “pitiful delays”. He said the “drastic’ reduction in road investment was proof that SNP policies were increasingly being dictated by the extremist agenda of their Green colleagues, who were expressly against expanding road capacity, said the Times story.
“The SNP have presided over a quite staggering fall in investment, which indicates their complete contempt for, and betrayal of, Scotland’s motorists,” Simpson said. “They have abandoned all pretence of keeping their promises on upgrading vital routes and instead pandered to the anti-car agenda of their Green colleagues.
“These appalling figures explain the SNP’s pitiful delays in dualling the A9 and A96, which have so enraged people in rural Scotland who rely on these key trunk routes. Their failure to provide the necessary investment in our roads betrays local communities, undermines Scotland’s future connectivity and endangers lives.”
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, the transport policy group, said:
“Scottish roads are just as much critical infrastructure as the power, water and telecom networks and they should receive the necessary investment to keep them fit for purpose.
The SNP-Green alliance has been criticised for presiding over significant delays in projects such as improvements to the the A96
“We are not talking about concreting over the countryside but upgrading routes often for reasons of safety as much as increasing capacity and cutting congestion.”
The high expenditure on road projects in 2016/17 reflects costs associated with building the Queensferry Crossing over the Forth.
The decline in spending on the roads since has coincided with the Scottish government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by road transport.
Climate targets for Scotland to be net zero by 2045 have recently been revised, with a 75 per cent emissions reduction by 2030. Specifically, in a transport policy that is against building new roads, as opposed to improving existing routes, ministers have committed to a target of a 20 per cent traffic reduction by 2030.
Road transport accounts for 24 per cent of all of Scottish emissions, with road transport a larger contributor than any other sector of the economy.
SNP ministers have also blamed shortfalls in UK government funding for the reduction in the amount it is able to spend on major road projects, said the Times report.
Local councils, in turn, have criticised the Scottish government for the restrictions in their funding, which, councils say, are partially behind the deterioration in local road networks.
Lesley Roberts, who campaigns to improve local roads, said: “Since the SNP government joined forces with the Scottish Green Party under the Bute House agreement, I honestly feel that things have got a lot worse.
“Many local roads are crumbling due to a lack of local government funding and the trunk roads are being left to rot.”
Humza Yousaf’s government has committed to a target of a 20 per cent traffic reduction by 2030.
The figures, which were provided by national agency Transport Scotland, do not include specific spending on the A9 dualling project to Inverness but do include the cost of maintaining the road.
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland, which is responsible for maintenance work on trunk roads and bridges, highlighted the £450 million spent on dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness.
She added: “Despite the cut of 9.8 per cent to our capital budget in the UK government’s autumn statement, we remain firmly committed to infrastructure investment as a key factor in securing economic growth and high-quality public infrastructure across Scotland,” she said. “Funding in the draft Scottish budget 2024-25 for road development
is up 9.6 per cent on 2023-24.
“As well as progressing a number of major road projects, we are continuing to support Scotland’s trunk road network, providing over £1 billion in 2024-25 for our critical safety, adaptation, maintenance and improvement priorities.”
Just before Christmas the Scottish government admitted that it would take until 2035 to dual the A9 at a cost of £3.7 billion. The SNP had initially pledged to complete the stretch by 2025. Màiri McAllan, the net zero secretary, admitted that the project had “faced challenges” and had “not progressed at the pace we would have liked”.