Letters to the editor – May 14, 2021

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An open letter to Roy Brannen, chief executive, Transport Scotland and Hugh Gilles, roads director, Transport Scotland

In response to a follow-up email after a meeting held with Transport Scotland officials last month. We once again highlighted our concerns over a lack of immediate action on the crisis at the Rest and be Thankful

Dear Roy and Hugh,

I am writing in response to an official Transport Scotland email to the Rest and be Thankful Campaign on the April 17, where you have sought to answer several questions posed by us at our meeting with your officials and in subsequent emails to you both. We are hugely disappointed by this response and its apparent contradictions.

We asked for a permanent solution within the next three years. The email states ‘we are not waiting for anything and are pushing on with work at pace’ yet your actions since the August landslide have only created delay.

We believe creating 11 options for consultation in November 2020 and five further options for consultation in March was a time-wasting exercise. We strongly believe there are only three real options, with studies on these completed in your 2013 report.

A geological survey, which will take 18 months to complete, could have started last August, assuming you had not conducted such surveys in 2012.

We have asked for temporary use of the forestry road, away from the threats posed by landsides.

The email states: ‘We were clear without that information we are not certain the forestry track in its current form is safe for use’, yet we would argue you already have a Transerv report produced in 2012 by Balfour Beatty and Mouchal Services Ltd for Transport Scotland which suggested the forestry road could be upgraded in 10-12 weeks. How did Transerv arrive at this conclusion without a study of the ground conditions being done in advance?

This situation should be considered a safety, economic and social emergency, cutting through the red tape of consultation and delay.

It further declares that ‘we understand first-hand the delay that can be caused by procedural challenge…there needs to be a careful balancing of accelerating development and procedural risk in order to ensure that we do not end up in the courts’.

While we understand the need for the right balance of speed and consultation, we think the safety risks, costs incurred by business and damage to the economy of Argyll should create the conditions for emergency action, delivering what should be a simple road realignment.

This is not HS2, we are not asking to blight the countryside or people’s homes; you do not have whole communities ready to challenge fixing the crisis at the Rest and be Thankful. What we want cannot be worse than the damage already inflicted on the hillside without consultation. If you fixed the rest, we will all be thankful.

The following questions still have not been answered in Transport Scotland’s official reply or in recent press statements:

If the next landslide, or subsequent diversion along the equally inadequate A82, results in a fatality who will be held accountable?

Who is responsible for the social and economic impact on the people and businesses of Argyll while we wait another 10 years for something permanent to be done?

We are business people and understand the need for safe environments, effective procedures, timely management and cost control, but what we have experienced over the past year does not give us confidence you will address the concerns we have.

We are not looking for you to defend your approach, what matters to us is the action taken to bring timescales down and resolve the problem within the next parliament.

We are simply asking you to rethink your approach, look at how your team can cut through this ‘business as usual’ process and appoint someone who can find a way to realign two km of the A83 safely within the next three years.

By challenging your approach, we are hoping to see that after nearly a year of delay and diversion, there is a recognition of the cost impact to business, the significant safety concerns, and that this will continue to blight Argyll as a place to live, work, and invest in until a permanent solution is delivered.

We will be working with the relevant politicians post elections and will continue to campaign for a change in approach.

We would be happy to discuss what can be done to overcome any constraints you have to deliver a solution quickly and resolve the crisis at the Rest and be Thankful.

John Gurr, chairman, The Rest and be Thankful Campaign

Connect with nature

Sir,

Mental Health Awareness Week opened on Monday May 10 and we are inviting everyone to #ConnectWithNature to support their mental health.

Spending quality time in and around nature can help to reduce stress and increase feelings of positivity, and you don’t have to be surrounded by fields or have to take a walk in the wilderness to feel the benefits.

The Mental Health Foundation, which works to prevent mental health problems and has organised this awareness week for the past 21 years, encourages you to recognise and grow your connection with nature by sharing a photo, video or sound recording with your family and friends, and on your social media.

Connecting with nature can really make a difference to your mental health, and now more than ever, it is time to look after yours.

Julie Walters, actor

Election thanks

Sir,
I would like to thank everybody who voted for me in the Scottish election and the many people who helped my campaign. I congratulate Jenny Minto on her election and wish her well in her job of representing the people of Argyll and Bute at Holyrood.

Alan Reid, Dunoon