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Highland MSP slams ‘vanity scheme’ redevelopment amid funding shortfall for Highland schools

MSP John Finnie.
MSP John Finnie.

A Highland MSP has slammed the proposed redevelopment of Inverness’ Longman roundabout amid a funding shortfall for the upgrade of 11 Highland schools.

Green MSP John Finnie made his voice heard yesterday as details plans on the proposed new layout of the city’s roundabout went on display to the public after transport chiefs determined their chosen option to address the traffic woes of the stricken route.

Mr Finnie described Transport Scotland’s plans as a “vanity scheme” as he argued the projected £85-95 million cost would be better spent on Highland schools.

Mr Finnie said: “Both the Scottish Government and Highland Council have declared a “climate emergency”.

First look at preferred option to ease congestion at Inverness’ notorious Longman roundabout

“Only this week we hear of the £25 million shortfall in bringing eleven Highland schools up to scratch. They should follow the example of the Welsh Government who have cancelled constructing a motorway, and put a halt to vanity schemes such as this.

“It is shocking that Highland Council and the Scottish Government prioritise short delays to motorists, for two brief periods each weekday, ahead of much-needed school upgrades.

“Of course we’ll be told ‘it’s not as simple as that’ or ‘it’s different budgets’ – that’s simply nonsense.

“It’s time for local authorities and governments to put some real action into this ‘emergency’ they purport to want to address.”

Mr Finnie’s remarks came after it was reported that Highland Council expects a reduction to a £75 million sum it had expected to repair schools.

Originally it had been anticipated that £50m of the total would come from the Scottish Government with £25m coming from the council. But a council report has warned that the government will now only match council funding, leaving a £25m shortfall.

Mr Finnie’s outburst came as transport chiefs preferred option for the redesign of the Longman runabout went on display to the public yesterday at the Inverness Caledonian Thistle Stadium.

It is anticipated that work on the project will get underway by 2022 should all statutory measures be met and if a public inquiry is avoided.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has a duty to ensure that Scotland is equipped with the appropriate infrastructure to meet the needs of all our population.

“All major projects within the Scottish Government’s transport portfolio are subject to significant assessment work to ensure they deliver sustainable economic growth, improve safety and keep impacts on the environment to the absolute minimum, and the A9/A82 Longman Junction Improvement is no exception to that.”

What do you think?

“I like the idea of raising the level of the road and having the slip roads. Out of the options presented it is probably the best. As long as they keep disruption to a minimum during construction then it will be welcomed.”

George Glaister, 62, retired, Evanton.

“I am quite happy with the option presented. It’s just a pity really that it will take so long for them to start.”

Sheila Wilson, retired, North Kessock

“It is an improvement. As a cyclist, I am impressed with the different routes and it is an improvement on what we have already got. It is a lot of money but I can see the benefits.”

Keith Inglis, 43, civil engineer, Lochardil

“I like the design. There are plenty of routes for people to access, including cyclists, and it makes it all a bit safer and more accessible.”

Fiona Johnston, 50, Cycling UK development officer, Marybank

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