A senior UK Government minister is under new pressure to explain why he is so opposed to average-speed cameras on the A9.
The SNP claimed Danny Alexander was wrong to claim they would not reduce accidents on the road and said the Liberal Democrats had called for and welcomed similar schemes in England.
In November, the Lib Dem Mayor of Bedford Borough Dave Hodgson welcomed the introduction of average-speed cameras on several roads in the town.
And the Lib Dems’ transport spokesman in Oxfordshire David Turner said figures showed their introduction “was followed by a noticeable drop in road traffic accidents”.
Mr Alexander, who is chief secretary to the Treasury, fears that lining the A9 between Inverness and Dunblane with about 100 cameras could increase driver frustration and the likelihood of accidents.
He claims the £2.5million scheme would be a “distraction” and the Scottish Government should speed up plans to dual the road. Mr Alexander said: “It’s time for the SNP to listen to Highlanders – stop the dithering and start the dualling.
“At the current rate of progress, HS2 could be complete before the SNP dual the A9.
“After seven wasted years of SNP in government, not one inch of progress has been delivered and no work has been carried out that wasn’t already planned by the previous Liberal Democrat transport minister.”
The Highlands and islands branches of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) want the £2.5million cameras project put on hold until the effectiveness of other safety measures has been assessed.
Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “Danny Alexander is playing a very dangerous game indeed and he is totally out of sync with his party.
“The Lib Dems have called for, welcomed and backed speed cameras across the UK so he needs to explain what makes the case for cameras on the A9 different. He knows his party face political obscurity and he will clearly do anything to get his name in the papers to try and save his seat.” Mr Thompson claimed the Highland MP was sending out a “very foolish message”.
Mr Alexander claimed the SNP were making “cack-handed attempts” to defend the cameras.
“I have always welcomed targeted measures to improve road safety,” he added. “What the SNP fail to recognise is that thousands of Highlanders who use the road regularly know only too well is that average speed cameras will increase frustration and, as the A9 Safety Group admits, will increase overtaking – a major cause of accidents on the road.”