Scottish Government plans drive to better coordinate roads spending

4 Aug 16

Scottish transport minister Humza Yousaf is to meet council leaders to push for better co-ordination in road maintenance after Audit Scotland found a third of council-maintained roads and an eighth of the national trunk road network to be in need of repair.

The examination found that 57% of drivers express “major concern” over the state of the roads, which has been blamed for more than 300 accidents over five years, six of them fatal and 64 serious. Urgent action is needed to remedy the position, the report says.

Council spending on local road maintenance has fallen 14% over the past five years, and now stands some £33m short of the level the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation Scotland thinks is needed to prevent further deterioration. The picture also varies widely between authorities.

Transport Scotland, the quango that runs the trunk network on behalf of the Scottish Government, fares slightly better. Its spending fell by 4% over the same period, reducing the proportion of roads in acceptable condition from 90% to 87%. But within that, the motorway system performed more poorly, with more than a quarter no longer found to be in acceptable condition.

Auditor general Caroline Gardner said that a well-maintained road network was vital for Scotland’s prosperity: “What is needed is a longer term view which takes into account both the need for new roads and the proper maintenance of what we have at present,” she stated.

The report called on the various bodies responsible for roads, both local and national, to work more closely together.  A Scottish Roads Collaboration Programme was started in 2013 to encourage sharing of services, but Yousaf acknowledged in a BBC interview that more could be done, and said he planned to meet the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) to discuss the matter.

Accounts Commission chair Douglas Sinclair added: “Councils face increasing pressures and challenges but progress in developing a shared services approach for roads has been disappointingly slow. They can and should collaborate much more to secure better value for money."

But Cosla firmly rejected suggestions that councils were failing to prioritise roads spending: “The truth of the matter is that local government faces huge challenges on maintaining or improving road quality, but there are no easy solutions,” development spokesman Stephen Hagan said.

“Cosla is a supporter of shared services where they can deliver improvements, but we are also clear they are not a ‘silver bullet’ in every case,” he added.  “Work on roads collaboration is continuing but should not be viewed as a panacea for challenges faced by local authorities.”

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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