SCOTLAND’S EUROROUTE DISRUPTION WILL ONLY BENEFIT FOREIGN WINDFARM DEVELOPERS
The A77 Trunk Road is one of Scotland’s main transport arteries. Designated as a key trade link between Ireland and Scotland, large parts of the route from Stranraer to Glasgow are comprised of narrow lanes, dangerous junctions, sharp bends, deadly potholes and crumbling surfaces. Heavy goods vehicles are forced within inches of each other when they meet on the tight and twisting road, described by many drivers as a ‘goat track’, rather than a certified Euroroute. There are near permanent roadworks, like the one-way system at Carlock Wall, close to the main ferry port of Cairnryan. Traffic lights there can sometimes hold long queues of ferry traffic for up to 45 minutes and warning signs tell drivers who break down after dark not to jump over crash barriers, or they will plummet down a 60–70-foot sheer drop, adding to the many fatalities on the road.
Apart from the recent opening of the Maybole by-pass in South Ayrshire, first mooted more than five decades ago, the total neglect of the A77 by the SNP government has been exacerbated by the re-designing of the Whitletts roundabout at Ayr, a key junction that already experiences long tailbacks during morning and evening rush hours. If the proposed roadworks at Whitletts were to effect improvements to traffic flow, regular commuters might be prepared to tolerate some inconvenience. But to add insult to injury, the disruption to the A77 will be caused by another of the SNP government’s pet projects, their obsession with turning Scotland into the “Saudi-Arabia of wind”. Whitletts roundabout is facing a major re-design to facilitate a multi-million wind farm scheme.
Believe it or not, farmers, tourists, commuters, HGV drivers and other road users will potentially face weeks of delays and disturbance because the wind farm firm Vattenfall needs to modify the roundabout so that gigantic, industrial wind turbines can pass through the junction on their way to a wind farm development at Dalmellington in East Ayrshire. Vattenfall is a Swedish company owned by the Swedish state and it is shipping the enormous, foreign-built, 64-meter-long, turbine blades through the port of Ayr and from there by road to their South Kyle Wind Farm project near Dalmellington. Following years of disturbance caused by the race to cover the beautiful hills of south-west Scotland with bristling, 200-meter-high wind turbines, A77 road users will once again suffer delays and aggravation to fill foreign coffers and create foreign jobs.
Most of Scotland’s largest wind farms are owned by foreign companies, often with links to offshore tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Guernsey and Jersey. There is little benefit to the Scottish economy and lengthy delays such as those now being faced by road-users at Whitletts, will have a negative economic impact. Although, at long last, there are plans to construct a wind tower manufacturing plant at Nigg on the Cromarty Firth, the incompetence of successive SNP-run governments has seen thousands of wind turbines built overseas and imported and often constructed by foreign workers. There is even a notorious sign erected by the Spanish-owned ScottishPower at the exit from their Mark Hill windfarm in South Ayrshire, to remind Spanish drivers to drive on the left – “Circula por la izquierda”!
The controversy over the Whitletts roadworks is simply the latest in a series of regular delays and holdups on Scottish roads caused by the movement of massive turbines, almost all of which are imported from overseas and face tortuous journeys on our tangled network of goat tracks and narrow lanes. But the failure to improve Scottish roads can be traced directly to the door of the SNP government and their coalition with the extremist Greens. Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, the two Green ministers appointed by Nicola Sturgeon to bolster her Holyrood majority for independence, are passionately opposed to cars. Improvements to our roads are anathema to the Greens. That is why the SNP government’s recently published Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR2), although containing a proposal for minor upgrades to parts of the A77 trunk road, failed to provide any detailed plans.
The A75 and A77 carry 40% of Northern Ireland’s exports to the UK and a review last year of Britain’s connectivity by Sir Peter Hendy, current Chair of Network Rail, recommended that, in the absence of action by the Scottish government, the Westminster government should finance major upgrades to both roads. The SNP immediately branded this as an anti-devolution power grab and refused to negotiate with the UK government, leaving high and dry the 400,000 freight vehicles, 500,000 cars and 2 million passengers who use the routes between Northern Ireland and Scotland every year. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is now planning talks with Ulster business groups and the Stena and P & O ferry companies to put pressure on the SNP to act. The UK government has already allocated £20 million to fund preparatory studies, which will include plans to upgrade the A75 and A77 to dual carriageways. The Greens will be fiercely opposed, despite evidence that heavy goods vehicles using the current narrow and twisty lanes, emit 2 tons more CO2 every day than they would on a decent dual carriageway.
When the queues of tractors, trucks and cars begin to build up around Whitletts in the coming weeks, drivers may reflect on a future of third world roads and diesel vehicle bans in Scotland’s main cities, while vast expenditure is allocated to new bicycle tracks and pedestrian walkways, courtesy of the SNP-Green coalition. Frustrated drivers may be entitled to think that instead of allowing a Swedish energy firm to disrupt our main transport links, the SNP government should be insisting that all industrial wind turbines are built in Scotland. The fortune that we have lost to foreign investors could well have been spent upgrading the A75 and A77 trunk roads to dual carriageway status, providing a huge boost to Scottish jobs and trade.