Whittle secures cross party agreement in Northern Ireland
MSP Brian Whittle has taken the campaign for better transport infrastructure in the south west, to Northern Ireland. Scottish Conservative MSP Brian, who has been campaigning with his colleague Finlay Carson MSP for investment in the region’s road and rail links, used the Scottish Parliament’s February recess to travel to Belfast for meetings with senior political and business figures.
Stena Line and P&O operate the only ferry links between Northern Ireland and Scotland from Loch Ryan Port. With ports in other parts of the UK, such as Holyhead and Heysham, becoming more attractive to hauliers because of their better road connections, Brian believes the Scottish Government must lay out a plan for long-term investment in the south west if it’s to remain competitive.
As more and more businesses rely on so called ‘just in time’ deliveries, hauliers have to consider not only what the shortest route is but also which can deliver the most reliable and consistent journey times. The lack of dual carriageways, risks of long diversions in the event of a closure and slower speed limits passing through towns and villages make it harder for drivers on the A77 and A75 to be sure how long the journey will take.
During his trip, the South Scotland MSP met with Members of the Northern Ireland Executive from various political parties, including Sinn Fein, the DUP, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party. Away from politics, there were meetings with Tourism Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Institute of Directors, Belfast Harbour Commission, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium and representatives of some of the biggest haulage companies who rely on the Cairnryan-Belfast or Cairnryan-Larne routes.
Roads like the A77 and A75 aren’t just vital to local communities and businesses, but also make a significant contribution to the economies of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Following his visit, Brian is making clear he’s more determined than ever to make the Scottish Government see the sense in improving South West Scotland’s transport links and make a long overdue commitment to invest.
Brian Whittle MSP said:
“The economic ties between Scotland and Northern Ireland have long benefited both our nations and it’s clear from the discussions I’ve had that there’s a genuine desire in Northern Ireland to see those ties strengthened.
Regardless of political affiliation, every politician I spoke to in Northern Ireland saw the need for investment in South West Scotland and the opportunities it could bring for their constituents in Northern Ireland.
Anyone who has ever travelled to Belfast or Larne from Cairnryan will understand that the quality of the roads is very different on the other side of the Irish Sea. Travellers coming from Scotland come off the ferry and find themselves on dual carriageway more quickly than those coming from Northern Ireland, who have to deal with the twisting single carriageway of the A77 or A75. As well as putting off leisure travellers, it means hauliers can have increased costs through more wear and tear on their trucks and customers frustrated by delays because deliveries get stuck in traffic or sent on long, unsuitable diversion routes.
From growing the tourism industry to strengthening the supply chains that food retailers rely on, there are huge arguments for investment in the south west’s infrastructure and better connecting Scotland to Northern Ireland.
All the organisations I spoke to were positive about the benefits that stronger links between Scotland and Northern Ireland could bring and are keen to see progress as soon as possible.
It’s vital that the Scottish Government act now and commit to a long term programme of investment in the South West’s road and rail network. If they don’t, they risk choking off the opportunities for economic growth rather than making the most of them.”