North Coast 500 (Road Safety)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 5th October 2017.

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Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

5. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to improve road safety on the north coast 500 route, in light of a reported increase in accidents. (S5O-01339)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government welcomes the success of the north coast 500 and recognises the importance of the NC500 route to the Scottish economy.

On road safety, Scottish ministers are directly responsible for trunk road sections of the NC500, which comprise approximately 22 per cent of the route, through sections of the A835, A99 and A9. The safety performance of the trunk road elements of the NC500 is reviewed annually and the figures for 2016 are lower than the average for the three years before the route was promoted in 2015.

A partnership approach has been taken to improving safety across the whole NC500. The transport sub-group that has been set up by the NC500 working group includes officials from Highland Council, Police Scotland, Transport Scotland, BEAR Scotland, NC500 and visit Wester Ross. Options that are being considered include passing places on single-track roads, road-edge strengthening, improved tourist route signing and general road safety and driver behaviour education. Those discussions are at an early stage and I would welcome contributions and input from members.

Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

The north coast 500 has been a tremendous boost to the Highlands. However, many people who live near it believe that accidents are caused by a combination of frustration and inexperienced driving on single-track roads. Given that Highland Council is finding it difficult financially to do so, will the Government help to take the lead in increasing signage on the route to mitigate those two problems?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I will look at any proposals, along with colleagues from Highland Council. The appropriate place to do that is at the transport sub-group and the working group that we have set up. Some of our recent interventions focus on signage, and on single-track roads and passing places. If a proposal comes from Highland Council, we will look at it.

We would expect local roads to be funded from the block grant that Highland Council receives, which amounts to more than £400 million. Nonetheless, I will keep an open mind on any suggestions and proposals that come forward.

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour

Will the minister join me in congratulating the north of Scotland driver awareness team, which has produced a road safety leaflet about driving on single-track roads in the NC500 and beyond? Does the minister share my view that the NC500 route is a stellar success for tourism, but perhaps more work needs to be done to promote the specialist and technical skills that are needed for driving on single-track roads?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Yes, I agree with all of that. I thank Dave Stewart for giving me a copy of the leaflet, which is excellent—many of those who drive the NC500 route would do well to look at it. We should absolutely support such initiatives where we can. Transport Scotland and the Government, as part of the NC500 transport sub-group, will look to do what more we can.