Aberdeen and Inverness County Councils have suggested that a new road should be built through Glen Feshie. I told representatives of both authorities on 19th March that this scheme would be considered, along with similar proposals, in the context of current studies of the Highlands.
I thank the Minister for that answer. Can he give any indication when he expects to come to a decision on the matter? Can he give me an assurance that in coming to such a decision he will give full weight to the arguments about tourism and east-west access, especially in relation to the pulp mill?
Certainly. I am willing to give an assurance that these matters will be borne in mind. As the hon. Member knows, at the meeting that we had these matters were fully explored and these important points were impressed upon me. I regret that I cannot say when we shall come to a decision on the matter. There are a number of priorities which have to be sorted out. The Highland counties concerned, as the result of an inquiry by the Highland Panel, have submitted a programme for no less than 36 new road schemes, estimated to cost about £16 mill ion. The Glen Feshie improvement will cost as much as £2 million. The hon. Member will understand the immense problem that lies before us in sorting out which comes first.
Is the hon. Member aware of the tremendous benefit not only to the Highlands but to the northeast, particularly in respect of forestry in Aberdeenshire, Deeside, and Kincardineshire, and will he bring this decision forward as soon as possible?