THE Scottish Nationalists have been accused of sabotaging a long hoped-for upgrade of the A1 – despite pledging closer links with the North.
Alex Salmond’s party is refusing to help fund a study into creating a badly-needed dual carriageway north of the border, insisting it is not a priority.
The stance has been fiercely criticised by Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, who urged the SNP to think again, to improve transport links.
Now the Liberal Democrat has raised the prospect of dualling through Northumberland to the border – only for motorists to crawl some of the rest of the way to Edinburgh.
He said: “We’ve said we’d be keen to extend the feasibility study to the stretch north of the border stretch and we’ll co-fund it with the Scottish Government.
“It would be a real opportunity to make the road route down the East Coast a much better connection, but the Scottish Government been pretty sniffy in their response so far.”
Mr Alexander said he would reveal whether the upgrade in England would go ahead after that feasibility study was published in the autumn.
But he warned: “If the Scottish Government don’t play ball, we can’t do the north of the border bit by ourselves, because they are responsible for roads.”
The row is potentially embarrassing for Mr Salmond who pledged to forge closer links with the North of England after a ‘yes’ vote in September’s referendum.
The SNP leader and First Minister has tried to woo supporters across the border frustrated by Westminster, arguing: “They feel not just neglected but totally ignored.”
Last night, Transport for Scotland defended its position, saying: “Two thirds of the A1 between The Borders and Edinburgh are already dualled and it is safe, efficient route with very few reliability issues.
“We are engaging with the department for transport on their study, but our objective is to promote a continuing reduction in accident rates rather than explore dualling.”
The A1 peters out, north of Alnwick, into a single lane in each direction – a damaging drag on the North-East’s economy, critics say.
Last summer, Mr Alexander announced a feasibility study” – but repeatedly ducked challenges to confirm a dual carriageway would actually be built.
If the go-ahead is given later this year, work would not start until after next year’s general election, when an increase in infrastructure spending is promised.
Insiders say the SNP priority is to upgrade inadequate roads from the central belt of Scotland to the Highlands – rather than down to England.
Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield, who has attacked the SNP’s nationalism, said: “One the one hand, they say they want closer links between the North-East and Scotland.
“But they not only want to put up a border, they are not willing to improve the transport links between the two sides of it either.”