Liberal Democrat politicians in the North East have warned the Government of the potential danger to the Union of not investing in upgrades to the A1 road linking the region with Scotland.
Scotland’s referendum on the future of the United Kingdom is now set for 2014, with Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond signing off on the historic deal yesterday.
Northumberland County Council’s executive member for highways, Councillor Alan Thompson, said: “With the date for Scotland’s referendum on the future of the Union now set for 2014, it is vital that the UK Government does what it can to make sure Scots feel they are connected with the rest of the country.
“Getting the right infrastructure in place to link Scotland and the North East should therefore be a top priority for the Government. Progress has already been made in reclassifying the A1 as a route of strategic national importance, but it is now time to make good on that and get work started.
“Business has consistently made the economic case for dualling the A1; get trade moving between the North East and Scotland and you unlock billions of pounds which would make a huge difference to both our region and areas north of the border.”
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith, through whose constituency the A1 runs, added: “I made the case for investing in the A1 in the context of Scottish independence when Nick Clegg visited Newcastle recently, and now that the referendum date has been finalised it is imperative that he and his colleagues in Government ensure work can begin as soon as possible.
“It would send out totally contradictory messages to the people of Scotland if we were saying on the one hand that they should remain within the Union, but on the other hand that the United Kingdom Government is not willing to invest in the sort of infrastructure the rest of the country takes for granted.”
The A1 north of Newcastle has been reclassified by the Government as a road of strategic national importance, with Transport Minister Norman Baker saying at the time that he and his colleagues recognised the importance of the road to freight and other strategic traffic travelling between Newcastle and Edinburgh.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has since expressed his ‘instinctive sympathy’ to calls from within the region to fully dual the road.