Rest and Be Thankful Landslips (A83)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st September 2021.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

4. To ask the Scottish Government how much it has spent, and plans to spend, over the next four years, on the mitigation of landslips at the Rest and Be Thankful on the A83. (S6O-00076)

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

Since 2007, we have invested £87 million in the maintenance of the A83, including more than £15 million in landslide mitigation works to provide additional resilience at the Rest and Be Thankful, such as debris netting, bunds and improvements to drainage.

Subject to the annual budget process and spending review, our current plan is to spend a further £8.8 million over the coming years on short-term mitigation measures. There is also budget set aside for progression of the medium-term and long-term works in Glen Croe, which shows our absolute determination to invest in the road in the short, medium and long terms to help keep Argyll open for business and enable residents and visitors alike to travel to and from the area.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

The minister has acknowledged that £15 million has been spent and a further £8 million is in the pipeline, and £1 million has recently been spent on extending the catch pits at the Rest and Be Thankful. Does he think that that will be enough to withstand a large landslide of, say, 100 tonnes of debris? If so, why does Transport Scotland keep on closing the road when it rains? Does he believe, therefore, that now is the time for all alternatives to be explored in order to maintain access to Argyll?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

As Jackie Baillie well knows, because we have met to discuss the issue, there are no certainties about this; we are in the hands of mother nature. I know that Jackie Baillie would not sit there and suggest to me that we should not conduct those measures—we need to do so in order to minimise the risk there. A great deal of effort goes into ensuring that any risk associated with the route is minimised. I absolutely agree with her, and I hope that I can give her some assurance if she does not have it already. A parallel process is taking place: every mitigation possible is being deployed and, at exactly the same time, work is going on to develop proposals for the medium and long terms in order to provide the outcome that we all desire.

Photo of Jenni Minto Jenni Minto Scottish National Party

Can the Scottish Government give an assurance to residents, businesses and visitors of Argyll and Bute that the mitigation work that is currently under way is not to the detriment of a long-term solution? Can the minister share with Parliament the timeline for finding that solution?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

As I have just said to Jackie Baillie, there is a parallel process that includes the current mitigation work, the medium-term development work and the long-term work. We are currently in the phase of gathering data in order to inform the best choice of specific route. That should be concluded by the end of this year. At that point, all being well, we will have a clearer picture of the workable options.

We will then move to the development of a final proposal for a medium-term solution. There are, of course, many unknowns, such as ownership of the land depending on the route, engineering requirements and ground condition, but we are working with all haste on that. I do not want to give hostages to fortune, but it is feasible that, towards the end of next year, we will have a firm, shovel-ready proposal to take forward. That is where we hope to be at that point.