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Potholes

– in the Scottish Parliament on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

7. To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has for addressing potholes on Scotland’s roads. (S5O-04300)

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

We note the challenges that face road maintenance across the network and the importance of a safe, well-performing road network. As set out in the budget, the Scottish Government expects to invest £471 million in managing, maintaining and safely operating the trunk road network in 2020-21.

Local road maintenance is the responsibility of local authorities, which allocate resources on the basis of local priorities. Despite a £850 million real-terms cut by the United Kingdom Government to Scotland’s discretionary resource budget since 2010-11, we have ensured that local government receives a fair funding settlement that supports vital public services.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

Would the minister consider discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to plan a strategic economic approach that would pull resources together, work with companies, create the jobs that are needed, address the skills gaps and get our roads fixed? There is something like £55 billion-worth of road repairs that need to be done. The poorest people have cars because they need cars; their cars get damaged as a result of the potholes and they are unable to fix their cars. We need a more strategic approach to national planning, which goes back to the Keynesian approach of investing in the economy, planning jobs and delivering what is desperately needed to fix our roads across Scotland. Sometimes, it is like a third-world country.

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I recognise the importance of this issue at a local level. Mr Rowley touched on a number of points with regard to the impact that potholes have on individuals; we recognise that there are impacts on vehicles and individuals. From the point of view of encouraging active travel, the road surface is important to ensuring the safe conduct of cycling on our local roads. The member might be aware that the National Infrastructure Commission has looked at these issues and at all Scotland’s infrastructure needs and has made recommendations to the Government. The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, is looking at how we respond to that National Infrastructure Commission report. I will pass on the issue that Mr Rowley has raised today for Mr Matheson to take forward.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

Potholes are a problem in many parts of my Cowdenbeath constituency, including Benarty. Although it is understood that Fife Council’s key focus in the months ahead must of course be on dealing with coronavirus, work in this area could surely go on at pace. It would be outdoor work and it would mean that contractors could stay in work and get paid.

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I certainly recognise the nature of the work that Ms Ewing accurately described as outdoor work. These matters are, obviously, led by local authorities, and we have to trust that the local authority in this case will make sensible decisions about how to take forward work to repair the roads, which is a key priority. However, as Annabelle Ewing recognised, local authorities face a significant challenge at this time. We have to trust them to make sensible decisions as to how they deploy their resources at this most challenging of times.

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour

What assessment has the minister made of the role of potholes in accidents, particularly in rural areas? Will he ask his colleagues in Transport Scotland and the police to do specific assessments of the role of potholes in accidents across Scotland?

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

David Stewart will appreciate that such matters stretch across portfolio boundaries. I note that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Mr Yousaf, is sitting next to me. I will certainly raise the matter with the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Mr Matheson, and indeed with Mr Yousaf, who will have heard the points that David Stewart made, to see how we can respond. I am not aware of an evidence base that would give us granular detail about how many accidents are caused by potholes, but there may well be data that we can draw on. We will come back to David Stewart on the matter.