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Disappointment has been expressed by campaigners from the A82 Partnership that they missed out on meeting up with Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson MP while he was in Lochaber last week.
Mr Matheson was attending a meeting hosted at Ferguson Transport and Shipping offices at Corpach on Tuesday last week where he addressed a capacity audience of 20 of the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce’s Premium Members to update them on the Scottish Government’s priorities and progress on the pressing transport issues facing Lochaber firms and businesses.
Frazer Coupland, CEO of Lochaber Chamber, said: ‘We had a really productive meeting with Michael Matheson that took an all-encompassing approach to transport issues in Lochaber.
‘There was a great deal of discussion around options for shifting modes of transport and increasing use of rail and sea for freight, as well as active travel options for local journeys.’
However, Stewart MacLean, chairman of the A82 Partnership campiagn group said the organisation was ‘extremely disappointed’ that Mr Matheson did not make contact with the A82 Partnership during his visit to Lochaber despite the numerous invites to update him on the work of the Partnership.
‘A meeting at this time is particularly important due to the outstanding and long-awaited Fort William Strategic Transport Report and the upcoming Scottish Transport Project Review 2 both of which will have significant impact on the A82, the local community and businesses,’ Mr MacLean told the Lochaber Times this week.
‘We are also somewhat surprised that Lochaber Chamber of Commerce did not believe it appropriate to invite the Partnership to the meeting with the minister considering the importance of the A82 to its membership.
‘Since his appointment in 2018, the Transport Minister has failed to make any direct contact with the A82 Partnership – this is in stark contrast to the excellent relationship that the Partnership has had with previous ministers.’
A spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce said the meeting had been restricted to just one hour due to Mr Matheson’s timetable, but Mr MacLean added: ‘I think it is concerning that in comments by the chamber’s CEO about the meeting that there is no specific mention of the A82 issues or the Fort William congestion problems being raised.’
However, Councillor Allan Henderson, chairman of Highland Council’s communities and place committee, commented: ‘In my role as chair of HITRANS [Highlands and islands Transport Partnership], I am heading for Edinburgh on Thursday and the A82 is certainly on the agenda.
‘I am sure the premium group would have done the same and the turn of the A82 Partnership will come and be even more beneficial since the A82 is repeat business.’
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: ‘Mr Matheson was pleased to meet Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and discuss key transport issues in what was a productive and positive meeting.
‘He was able to provide an update on the National Transport Strategy and answer questions about major transport infrastructure investment.
‘The visit was arranged as part of an ongoing programme of business and stakeholder engagement, across the country; it wasn’t specifically a request to go to Lochaber and discuss the A82.
‘More widely, Transport Scotland is engaged with stakeholders in the Lochaber area through the Strategic Transport Projects Review and the Fort William 2040 programme. These have both included opportunities for stakeholders and the public to have their say on transport in the region, including the A82.
‘We will continue to engage with communities as we develop our transport priorities for the years ahead, including in Parliament this Thursday at the latest HITRANS meeting.’