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Jamie Stone sends dossier to Michael Gove to highlight 'mammoth-sized' Caithness potholes

By Alan Hendry

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Jamie Stone and Molly Nolan examining a badly potholed road in Caithness.
Jamie Stone and Molly Nolan examining a badly potholed road in Caithness.

North MP Jamie Stone has compiled a dossier of photos showing some of the worst potholes in Caithness in a bid to secure UK government support for major investment in the county's roads.

He dispatched the images to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove after warning that the Highlands could be "left behind" over funding for vital infrastructure.

Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, and Molly Nolan, the party's Holyrood hopeful, were given an insight into the state of the local road network when they met campaigners from Caithness Roads Recovery.

Led by local residents Iain Gregory and Helen Campbell, the group estimates that road recovery for the whole of the Highland Council area could cost between £170 million and £200 million.

Mr Stone pointed out that the UK government's plan to replace European Union funding for infrastructure investment with the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund had placed the Highland Council area in the bottom of three tiers for investment priority.

"Many roads in the far north benefited from EU funding, making them safe and fit for purpose," Mr Stone said. "As I have said to the Conservative government many times – as that funding is no longer available, they must deliver for the Highlands and match or exceed previous funding.

"And yet here we are, bottom of the table. Clearly the Tories don't consider us a priority, so I've put together a dossier of the photos collated by Caithness Roads Recovery and sent them directly to Michael Gove.

"Seeing is believing – one look at these mammoth-sized potholes is enough to prove we deserve investment."

Jamie Stone and Molly Nolan (right) with Caithness Roads Recovery campaigners Iain Gregory and Helen Campbell.
Jamie Stone and Molly Nolan (right) with Caithness Roads Recovery campaigners Iain Gregory and Helen Campbell.

He added: "Highland Council can only do so much – they need the money from the Scottish and UK governments urgently if they are to properly fix our roads, not just patch them up. Instead of faffing over the constitution, I urge both the SNP and Conservatives to knock their heads together and put recovery first."

Ms Nolan, the Lib Dem candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: "The poor state of our roads is the number one issue that residents speak to me about.

"We are facing really serious transport problems after years of our local authority being underfunded. Now neither the Scottish nor the UK government wants to hear about it.

"We need this financial support, and we need it urgently. If elected I will use my platform in Holyrood, and work alongside Jamie Stone in Westminster, to fight for this basic need to be met."

Mr Gregory said: "The situation in Caithness is now so bad that emergency funding must be provided as a matter of extreme urgency. We call upon the Scottish Government, and indeed Westminster, to take rapid steps to bring our roads network in Caithness up to a safe and acceptable standard."

Mrs Campbell added: "The priority in all of this is safety, and at the moment our roads are far from safe – they are lethal. They are very stressful to drive, they are damaging our vehicles and our county is becoming very concerned at how much quicker the roads will deteriorate once lockdown is eased. It's a serious accident waiting to happen."

Mr Stone has lodged parliamentary written questions asking about the process for local authorities to appeal against the tier they have been allocated for the Levelling Up Fund, and about the criteria for placing Highland Council in tier three.

Luke Hall, the minister for regional growth and local government, said the fund "is open to all local areas and will be allocated competitively" but did not address the question about the Highland Council area specifically.

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