Senior Highland Council figures call for Scottish Government to take climate change and increasingly damaging events like Storm Brendan into account when setting new budget; latest storm damaged roads in Ross-shire, Lochaber, Caithness, Sutherland, Skye and Raasay and left council facing hefty repair bill
IT is “vital” that the Scottish Government recognises the impact of storm ravaged roads and communities across Ross-shire and other parts of the Highlands when they set their budget, council leaders have warned.
Highland Council’s depute leader Cllr Alasdair Christie was speaking after Storm Brendan brought chaos to many rural communities.
One of the badly hit areas included Applecross, which saw surging seas wash away part of the main road. The route is open following the installation of a temporary by-pass of the affected stretch, and repairs are being carried out on the route, which is part of the important North Coast 500.
But it was not the only part of the Highland Council area to feel the storm’s wrath. Gairloch’s famed Sitooterie garden was severely damaged by the higher than normal seas and communities in Lochaber, Caithness, Sutherland, in southern Skye and on Raasay were also affected.
In the case of the latter two, “significant” landslides closed roads and temporarily cut off communities, “costing thousands in debris clearance and road repairs.
Highland Council has warned that it has the longest road network in the UK - some 4000 miles of roads, 1400 bridges and 1000 miles of paths.
And council budget leader Cllr Alister Mackinnon fears the cost impact of maintaining this network and repairing storm damage will only grow more acute as a result of climate change.
Now Cllr Christie has urged Holyrood to take these factors into account when setting its budget and earmarking the share of central cash that local councils receive.
“Our entire roads network is vital to our rural communities and lifeline services,” he said. “Every penny invested in maintaining this critical network also helps to support our tourism and business economy as well as improve connectivity for everyone in the Highlands.
“We allocated an extra £1.5 million to roads as part of last year’s budget and we want to be in a position to invest more in such improvements.
“It would cost many millions to get the roads across our entire network into top condition. It is therefore vital that the Scottish Government recognises the real impact of climate change in the Highlands and the need for this investment when setting its budget next month.”
Cllr Mackinnon added: “Local roads are vital to connecting our communities and keeping them sustainable. The condition of roads is a high priority for local residents and this is very clear in all our engagement with communities.
“We have the most extensive network of roads in the UK and added to this, we are faced with some of the most severe weather conditions here in the Highlands.
“Flooding and freeze-thaw conditions, which we have seen in recent days causes immense damage to road surfaces and this adds to the already immense maintenance costs of our infrastructure.
“Climate change will only increase the impact of weather damage creating an additional burden on our resources.”