SNP still putting barrier up against A75 funding
Readers of the Free Press are only too familiar with the problems on the A75. The road runs through Galloway like its spine yet everywhere, it seems, there are problems.
On Stranraer's eastern fringe, the junction for the Blackparks Industrial Estate has witnessed a slew of accidents.
The A751 links the A75 with the A77 and at both its Castle Kennedy and Innermessan junctions, there have been crashes – the latest on the Loch Ryan side only in the last few days.
Dunragit and Glenluce are mercifully bypassed, as are Newton Stewart and Minnigaff, but at Barlae near Kirkcowan, the so-called Euro-Route seems to flood every time there is heavy rain.
When lorries topple or go on fire, the road is often shut entirely and motorists face tortuous diversions on roads entirely unsuitable for HGVs. Sadly on the A77 north of Cairnryan on Tuesday we saw a fatal accident and my sympathies go to the family and friends of those involved.
Wouldn't it be great if there were money to start addressing some of the roads issues, I'm sometimes asked, as this would prepare the way to realign blind corners or add more dual sections to give drivers a chance to safely pass lumbering artics?
Frequent users of the A75 have expressed astonishment to me when they discover initial money to start bringing the region's key road up to speed is already available – but the Scottish Government don't want to talk about it, let alone access the cash.
It means Scotland's share of a £20m pot from the UK Government is likely to go abegging.
Transport is devolved to Holyrood but the SNP have shown little interest in the problems of the A75 and A77, preferring instead to talk about turning the A9 into an 'electric highway' – whatever that is.
Now the SNP are on the brink of cosying up with the Green Party in what critics call 'a coalition of chaos.' A glance at the Greens' manifesto is enough to make the blood of rural Scotland run cold, for they are anti-business and anti-car with policies that suit city dwellers who can walk or cycle to work or who enjoy bus and rail connections of which the rest of us can only dream.
The Greens are already bragging about moving the SNP towards their position on a number of policy issues and it's likely their aversion to spending money on our crumbling transport infrastructure could be part of the cost of propping up Nicola Sturgeon's minority administration.
That initial £20m is on offer for development work ahead of Sir Peter Hendy's Union Connectivity Review.
Sir Peter, chairman of Network Rail, has been looking at the United Kingdom's transport network in its totality, with particular emphasis on links that have strategic significance for the country.
His report is in the final stages before completion and both the A75 and A77 are expected to be picked out for their importance as they are key linkages between Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.
Incredibly, the SNP's transport secretary Michael Matheson ordered officials not to engage with Sir Peter and his team. Even with money on the table – money that could perhaps be used to reconsider the troubled project that is the A77 at Glenapp; or to look at bypassing Springholm or Crocketford on the A75 – the Scottish Government sits in Sphinx-like silence.
Why? They claim the UK Government is somehow treading on their toes by offering help to address problems they have ignored.
The south-west is crying out for investment in its infrastructure. The SNP once boasted it would deliver 'roads, rail and regeneration' for Wigtownshire. With this week's proposed cutbacks to the rail service out of Stranraer, that three Rs promise looks like rank, rotten, rubbish.
It's not too late for the SNP to make a U-turn. The UK Government remains ready to work with them to deliver roads which can smooth the way for business and make the lives of those of us who live and work here, who travel the A75 and A77 day in and day out, so much easier.
If the SNP still won't take up the offer, they are going to have to explain why they value their new Green chums – set for ministerial positions with only a tiny percentage of the vote – so highly and why they would rather leave roads to crumble in the name of political dogma when help is at hand.
Joint-approach needed to prevent drug tragedies
In the first six months of this year there were a tragic 25 suspected drug related-deaths in Dumfries and Galloway.
Sadly, this was compounded by recent national data showing Scotland had 1,339 drug-related deaths in 2020, the worst record in Europe.
The Scottish Government are rightly trying to combat this plague in a number of ways, including through the Scottish Drug Deaths Task Force.
I'm keen to see an intensive UK initiative called Project ADDER (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery), already running successfully in England and Wales, expanded to Scotland.
This whole-system multi-agency response at drugs hotspots combines increased targeted enforcement with much more treatment availability.
I urge the Scottish Government to accept a UK Government offer to set up an ADDER Project north of the border. Working together we could save lives.
Time for urgent action at Stranraer's eyesore hotel
I'm deeply disappointed that around four years after the deteriorating Grade-B listed George Hotel in Stranraer was acquired by Dumfries and Galloway Council, with a view to restoring the shell of the building. it remains an eyesore.
The council have co-ordinated work to make the building safer although constituents in the town tell me that they remain concerned that through time the remaining structure may be becoming an even greater safety threat and blot on the townscape.
I share the view of townspeople who are seeking more urgency in efforts, possibly with funding partners, to de-list the building and redevelop the site replacing with a modern useful building, perhaps retaining some of the original features of the hotel.
As tremendous efforts are being made to boost visitor numbers to Wigtownshire this prominent location deserves to be a top priority for redevelopment.
Poster-power highlights team effort to develop waterfront
I was impressed to see a new poster, headed 'Stranraer - One Waterfront,' celebrating efforts to develop the town's marine leisure attractions.
The eye-catching design highlights the marina project led by Dumfries and Galloway Council, the water sports hub being taken forward by Stranraer Water Sports Assocation and community-driven improvements at Agnew Park.
It's good to see so many groups and individuals working together and backed by various funding sources, including the local authority and the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.
Team work, indeed.
Could Borderlands become largest 'City' of Culture?
We are just on the starting line but I'm delighted that our coast-to-coast Borderlands area is in the running for UK City of Culture -- or, in our case, perhaps it should be renamed region of culture.
Covering Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Carlisle City, Cumbria and Northumberland local authority areas, the Borderlands represents the geographical heart of the British Isles.
Winning the accolade -- and the support and attention that accompanies the title -- could not come at a better time as we rebuild following the pandemic downturn and highlight the heritage, culture and creativity which are such a positive feature of our area.
There will be some tough competition but I'm glad the Borderlands team have thrown our hat into the ring.
UK Government prepare for new community grants round
A new bidding round of the UK Government's £150 million Community Ownership Fund grants distribution will begin in December.
The scheme is aimed at helping communities take ownership of amenities at risk of closure and can be used to give a new lease of life to such attractions as sports and arts facilities, community centres, theatres, museums, and parks.
Any groups in Wigtownshire interested in learning more about the match funding opportunities and how to apply can get full details on the UK Government website.