Transport minister visits Argyll
TRANSPORT minister Humza Yousaf is open to ‘reasonable arguments’ to improve Oban’s roads, he said during a fact-finding trip to the Inner Hebrides this week, writes Sandy Neil.
Mr Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s minister for transport and the islands, was on his first visit to Islay, Kerrera, Luing and Seil – after being moved into the role following a Cabinet reshuffle in May – to hear about the challenges and opportunities of island life.
Kerrera ferry’s new £1.7million breakwater and slipway extension, which were scheduled to be completed by the end of June, will ‘ bring real benefits to the Kerrera community,’ Mr Yousaf said, ‘improving ferry resilience by lessening the impact of tidal and poor weather conditions.’
In October last year a new ferry pricing system, the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET), slashed the cost of travel to Mull, with a resultant surge in traffic.
‘The whole point of RET was to increase traffic,’ said Mr Yousaf. ‘ We want people to visit the islands, but with every positive there’s a challenge.’
He said ferry capacity for island passengers can be limited as a result, but this would be addressed in CalMac’s contract discussions, adding: ‘These are problems I’d rather be having.’
Asked whether there was any cash available to improve road infrastructure to and from Oban given the increase in traffic, the transport minister said: ‘ We are already spending a heck of a lot.’
Since 2007, more than £ 35 million has been spent maintaining the A85 main route into Oban, a Scottish Government spokeswoman later clarified.
Mr Yousaf said any major improvements would be discussed within the Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review, which sets out its transport investment priorities from 2008 until 2032.
‘Every single local authority area asks for investment. The budget is limited, but I’m open to reasonable arguments,’ he said.
After visiting Islay Museum and Luing’s Atlantic Islands Centre, Mr Yousaf travelled to Oban’s Northern Lighthouse Board, the A83 and the Rest and Be Thankful.
Next month he travels to the Western Isles to continue his engagement with island communities, to ‘help develop and inform future legislative proposals’.
Humza Yousaf said he is ‘open to reasonable arguments’ on extra roads funding for Argyll.