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‘Why should residents of Argyll be second-class citizens?’ Calls for public inquiry to find Rest and Be Thankful fix

Road works on the A83 where the landslides have occurred.

The Scottish Government is being urged to hold a public inquiry to find a permanent fix for the “scary” Rest and Be Thankful.

The stretch of the A83 is frequently closed when bad weather is forecast following a number of significant landslips – with 600 tonnes of debris tumbling onto the road last summer.

Now local councillors are urging parliament to hold an inquiry to find a proper solution once and for all.

Argyll councillors Donald Kelly and Douglas Philand are fronting the calls, claiming the mitigation works have already cost more than £90million.

The pair petitioned the Scottish Parliament in 2012 for a permanent solution to the infamous road, with more than 10,000 signatures collected and 400 businesses throwing their support behind the campaign.

A landslip above the A83 Rest and Be Thankful, where a helicopter that was being used to clear a 100-tonne boulder. Photo by PA.

As a result, an A83 task force was formed, which put forward six options for a permanent fix the Scottish Government. However, these were dismissed in favour of mitigation measures.

Mr Philand said: “The current cost of these mitigation measures is in the region of £90million and rising – hence our call for a public inquiry in to the management and cost of this fiasco this far.”

Those costs have prompted Highland MSP Donald Cameron to launch a second public petition, which already has 700 signatures. 

Signatories have said repeated closures are “devastating” for the local economy and businesses.

One person wrote: “Spending tens of thousands of pounds every couple of years on stop-gap solutions makes no sense.

“Bite the bullet and implement a permanent solution.”

Another said: “I stay in Lochgilphead and I’m fed up with this main road being closed because of bad weather.

“Also having to take the Dalmally road which is an extra hour on the journey but is closed for nearly two hours if there is an accident.”

A third posted: “Why should the people of Argyll be second class citizens? To the government – you are also putting our lives and livelihoods at risk by delaying a permanent repair further.”

Government dismisses task force ideas

Despite public support, Mr Kelly said at the last task force meeting members were told that it will be at least seven years before any permanent solution is put in place.

Transport Minister Graeme Dey has called the landslips “scary”.

“My opinion is that if the money is required for the central belt that is where it will go,” Mr Philand said. “I think they are continuing to dig these borrow pits in the hope that eventually the disruption will ease and our permanent solution will be kicked into the long grass.”

And during a recent Holyrood debate, Conservative Highlands MSP Donald Cameron insisted that £15million spent on attempts to prevent further landslips had failed.

He said 100,000 tonnes of debris was sitting above the road at risk of falling.

In response, Transport Minister Graeme Dey said the prospect of further landslides was “scary” – admitting that MSPs have urged him to take faster action to build a diversion route.

The road is being treated with ‘urgency’ it deserves

Transport Scotland has said the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful is one of their top priorities.

A spokesman said: “Local residents and road users can be assured that the situation is being treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves, with measures to maintain connectivity on a short, medium and long term basis all being pursued.

“Identifying the preferred route corridor for a resilient long term solution earlier this year, was a major step forward for this vital work and we are looking at alternative options within that online corridor.

“We appreciate the timescale to develop an alternative route as a long-term solution is frustrating for the local community, but we will look to bring forward the programme where we can.”