Highland Council has been reported to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) over its “continuing lack of urgency” to fix its crumbling roads.
The Caithness Roads Recovery campaign group took the step after drafting a report to the local authority outlining the problems – and then not receiving a reply.
In their letter, the group’s Helen Campbell and Iain Gregory said action is needed to “save our lifelines, livelihoods and lives”.
They said: “The condition of the roads is shocking.
“Injuries and damage have occurred, and we believe that a fatality will occur without
The group believes blame for the situation is being passed between Highland Council, the Scottish Government and the UK government.
The statement continued: “In the meantime, the road network continues to deteriorate.
“The effect on the people of the county becomes ever more serious, with a recent serious and potentially life-changing injury occurring.”
‘The most painful experience I’ve ever had’
Earlier this month, a cyclist needed emergency surgery after crashing into a series of potholes on a crater-filled Caithness road.
Lois Gray, 57, may not regain full movement in her knee after she tumbled over the handlebars.
The experienced cyclist was heading towards Thurso from her home village of Castletown when she crashed on Mount Pleasant Road.
She told the Press and Journal: “It’s the most painful experience I’ve ever had.
“There are plenty roads in Caithness that are way worse than the one I crashed on. And plenty that are impassable by car.”
Common ground between Caithness and the moon
The campaign group believes the Caithness road network has been steadily declining over the last 20 years.
Sara-Jane Hardy echoes that view. The former art teacher has created a number of cartoons lampooning the issue.
One of her illustrations shows a car dodging numerous craters, while another has sheep remarking that the surface of the moon is in better shape than Caithness’s roads.
Sara-Jane, who lives in Thurso and works as a photographer and fibre artist, said: “I wanted to help the campaign group by drawing something for them.
“But it’s a serious issue. The roads are just getting worse and worse.”
How has Highland Council responded?
Highland Council chief executive Donna Manson replied to the campaign group’s last letter.
That one told her they would be submitting a formal complaint to the SPSO.
She responded: “On a day-to-day basis, if there are genuine health and safety concerns, then officers can authorise the closure of roads until any serious issues are verified.
“I would urge all defects to be reported so they can be inspected and appropriate steps taken to protect road users.”
A spokeswoman for the SPSO said they were unable to comment on whether they had received a complaint.
If it decided to investigate the complaint, the SPSO would look at:
- Whether the council follow their own policies
- If there was any service failure
The spokeswoman added: “Our legislation states that we must work in private.
“Public road maintenance is a topic that the SPSO could consider. If we decided to uphold the complaint, we would make recommendations as appropriate.”