New group means business over Rest ’embarrassment’

The aftermath of a landslide in September 2020 - the second in five weeks at that point.

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Pressure is building on the Scottish Government to take action – and quickly – to resolve a situation at the Rest and be Thankful described by one Argyll businessman as ‘an embarrassment’.

Hot on the heels of a joint appeal by Michael Russell MSP and council leader Robin Currie to Transport Secretary Michael Matheson to come up with a solution within five years, an influential new campaign group has ramped things up – by demanding action by May 2024.

The Rest and be Thankful Campaign has been launched by Inverneill resident John Gurr and a number of business leaders from across Argyll, and they are calling for a ‘quick and permanent’ solution for the Rest and be Thankful section of the A83.

The year 2020 saw three significant landslides close the lifeline A83 trunk road at the Rest, as heavy rainfall brought down more material on to the road than during every landslide combined since 2007.

The landslide risk is getting more severe, and a Transport Scotland engineer recently revealed that an estimated 100,000 tonnes of soil and rock is on the move above the trunk road.

Many millions have been spent on landslide mitigation, yet in the last week material reached both the A83 and old military road (OMR) local detour.

Despite the hard work, often in arduous conditions, by personnel on the ground, nature continues to get the better of the Scottish Government’s efforts since 2007.

Business leaders in the group include Colin Craig, West Coast Motors; Peter McKerral, Peter McKerral & Co Ltd; Matthew Mundell, B Mundell Hauliers; Duncan Macalister, Glenbarr Farms; Kenny MacLeod, MacLeod Construction; Andrew Spence, Bid 4 Oban; Keith Campbell, Argyll Holidays; Charles Black, Black of Dunoon; and Jane MacLeod Secretary of Mid Argyll Chamber of Commerce.

They also want to see the current Transport Scotland Rest and be Thankful review deliver a permanent solution along the Glen Croe route and a temporary solution in place by no later than May 2021.

John Gurr, chairman of The Rest and be Thankful Campaign, said: ‘The lack of interest in seriously fixing this stretch of road by the Scottish Government is hugely disappointing and is having a direct impact on our communities, local economy and business opportunities both now and in the future.

‘Through The Rest and be Thankful Campaign, we hope to have a stronger voice and collectively demand immediate action to the constant disruptions caused by landslides and slips at the Rest and be Thankful.

‘This is a call to action for all businesses in Argyll, big or small.

‘We need your support, if you agree we need a permanent solution in three years, not 10 years and an improved short-term solution as the current option is clearly not working then please sign up.’

Mid Argyll Chamber of Commerce secretary Jane MacLeod added: ‘Over the years there has been an increasing number of landslides at the Rest and be Thankful and despite a recent spend of £1 million in mitigations measures at the OMR, landslides and slips continue to force the road and the alternative OMR to close.

‘This is having a major impact on local businesses in the area and the Scottish Government should sit up and listen.’

‘If your business needs the Rest and be Thankful open and you support our campaign, please visit our website and register your support.’

Follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook by searching ‘Crisis at the Rest’.

Business leaders have their say:

Colin Craig, managing director at West Coast Motors

‘The Rest and be Thankful is a key transport artery which provides vital links to communities across Argyll and Bute whilst connecting the area to the rest of mainland Scotland. A 10-year plan to fix a mile of road is ludicrous and dangerous.

‘In 2020, the main A83 Rest and be Thankful was closed for over 200 days. This is a record breaking 300 per cent increase from the previous year and clearly demonstrates the mitigation measures are not working and immediate action to fix the road is needed.’

Peter McKerral, director at haulage firm Peter McKerral & Co

‘As a business reliant on the Rest and be Thankful we have been dealing with Transport Scotland for over 10 years,’ explained .

He continued: ‘We have proposed a range of temporary solutions including the use of the forest road on the opposite side of Glen Croe, an area clear of the landslide deposit. This and other solutions have continued to fall on deaf ears.

‘The new £1m barrier wall on the OMR, which was supposed to be the solution, hasn’t worked and was evident at the weekend when it was closed due to landslides. This is a wasted investment, and the project should be an absolute embarrassment to whoever is in charge.’

Kenny MacLeod, managing director at MacLeod Construction

‘An eye-watering £80m has so far been spent on mitigation measures, instead of the originally planned £4m and we are still no further forward.

‘Last year the Rest and Be Thankful had more landslides and slips, road closures and disruption than it has had in the past 20 years. This problem is getting worse, not better and Transport Scotland must be held accountable and deliver a workable solution to keep the area moving.’

Keith Campbell, managing director at Argyll Holidays

‘Covid-19 has had a major impact on the tourism and hospitality industry and its recovery will be hard, especially as we compete with more accessible parts of Scotland and the UK.

‘Without a robust and safe temporary solution to the Rest and Be Thankful we could experience a devastating double whammy in the tourism and hospitality sector in Argyll, with many businesses not surviving the year.’

Charles Black, director at Black of Dunoon

‘The closure of the road not only isolates local people, it is having disastrous consequences for the local economy and businesses who need the road open to deliver and receive goods and services.’

Matthew Mundell, operations manager at B Mundell Haulage

‘It is baffling to understand why the Scottish Government is not taking the landslides and slips at the Rest and Be Thankful seriously, especially after the fatal landslide in Stonehaven last year.

‘Immediate action is required now, not in 10 years.’

Duncan Macalister, owner of Glenbarr Farms

‘In the past six months Transport Scotland has woken up to a long-term solution to the issues at the Rest and be Thankful. Whilst this is good news we need an interim solution while a permanent solution is delivered, this should be completed by May 2024 and not the projected 10 years.’

Andrew Spence, chief executive at BID 4 Oban

‘While Argyll may have a small population, it is responsible for a significant part of Scotland’s output of tourism, forestry, farming, fishing, and whisky.

‘For local businesses to survive they need good connections, both in road and digital. For most of Argyll they have neither which makes it harder for businesses, even more so with the added pressures of Covid-19. Delays in delivering a permanent solution for the Rest and Be Thankful will isolate the area and make it less attractive for visitors and potential business opportunities.’