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‘It truly is a miracle that no-one has been seriously injured or even killed’.
This line, from an open letter to the Scottish Government, sums up the crux of the case being made by politicians from across the spectrum in Argyll and Bute as they press for a ‘permanent, robust’ solution for the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful following the latest landslide which struck the lifeline trunk route on August 4.
In an unprecedented move, politicians of all persuasions wrote this week to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Islands and Connectivity.
Argyll and Bute Council leader Aileen Morton said the local and national representatives are ‘united and unanimous’ in their demand for urgent action to deliver a permanent solution for the A83 Rest and Be Thankful.
Through the business and political stakeholder group, the A83 Taskforce, they ask for a permanent solution to be identified by next spring, with work to be completed by the end of 2023.
The letter, dated August 10, is published in full below:
Dear Nicola and Michael,
The issue that never fails to unite politicians at all levels of government and of all party persuasions is the need to ensure Argyll and Bute stays connected and open for business through a permanent, robust solution for the A83 Rest and Be Thankful – a solution that works.
Last week’s landslip continues to close the Rest and the Old Military Road, which itself was out of action for a period, will be shut again tonight at 9pm due to weather conditions. This continuing impact is why all of Argyll and Bute’s elected representatives have been united in pressing, once again, for urgent action.
Our members of the Scottish Parliament, Michael Russell, Jackie Baillie and Donald Cameron, have been swift to engage with us and to add their voices to these calls. They join us in writing to you, together, to reinforce that request for action on behalf of the people of Argyll and Bute.
We are asking you to convene an urgent special meeting of the A83 Taskforce – on a virtual basis if need be – as soon as possible to focus specifically on outline options for a permanent solution and for that meeting to consider and agree the following timescale for the same:
a) Nature of permanent solution to be identified and confirmed by March 31, 2021
b) Contract to construct permanent solution to be awarded by December 31, 2021
c) Work to start as soon as possible thereafter with completion by December 31, 2023 at the latest.
We know this requires a tremendous effort from everyone involved, including Transport Scotland which would have to commence work on this immediately in order for it to succeed. Argyll and Bute Council will do all it can for its part in this to co-operate and to encourage all other partners, from all sectors, to do likewise.
We believe that if the will is there, on all counts, to deliver a permanent solution, this can be achieved – because the risk of failing to do so is far too great and there is evidence of innovative, viable solutions of similar scale being established in other regions with similar geography and rurality.
The threats to Argyll and Bute’s economic success and to the contribution it makes to the national economy are well-known, as are the various personal impacts on those who live and work in our communities and who find their business, social and health-related activities disrupted without warning when landslips close the Rest.
Our biggest concern now, though, given the scale of last week’s incident, is continued public safety – it truly is a miracle that no-one has been seriously injured or even killed to date. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer – the risks are too great.
We stand ready to do anything we can to ensure Argyll and Bute and its communities finally get the solution they deserve for the Rest and be Thankful.
Yours sincerely, Aileen Morton, Council Leader; Michael Russell MSP; Gary Mulvaney, Depute Council Leader; Jackie Baillie MSP; Councillor Sandy Taylor, SNP council group leader; Councillor Dougie Philand, Argyll First council group leader; and Donald Cameron MSP