MINISTERS have been accused of wasting nearly £80m on over a decade of failed solutions to landslides on the iconic A83 Rest and Be Thankful road after the latest multiple slips in heavy rainfall.

The latest slips came less than three months after action was taken to install the latest of a series of big pits, this time at Glen Croe at a cost of £1.9m, in the wake of the last landslide in January.

Transport Scotland has now revealedi n the wake of the latest slips that they are now exploring options involving more of the same at a further cost of £1.1m.

More catchpits are planned with more work to commence next month. Transport Scotland admitted that it was "scant consolation".

Over £15m has already now been invested in catch pits and other solutions along the A83 as part of the £79.2m spent on vital maintenance and resilience on the road since 2007.

In January the road was closed for two days after being covered by 1,300 tonnes of debris - leading to renewed pleas for the road to be rerouted.

After that transport secretary Michael Matheson effectively dismissed calls for the permanent rerouting solution and instead decided to spend £1.9m on another attempt to catch any landslip fall, a big pit at Glen Croe. That was completed in mid-May and transport chiefs say four have now been installed.

But multiple slips on Tuesday, which has even blocked the local Old Military Road which has been used an alternative route, meant that travellers were having to follow a 58.8 mile detour with Western Ferries putting on additional sailings to help out.

READ MORE: A83 Rest and Be Thankful blocked by landslips after rain

Emergency crews confirmed large, car-sized boulders were brought down the hillside onto what is a Highlands artery and a vital route for Argyll and Bute.

In total, the landslide is thought to have moved around 6,000 tonnes of debris across the hill as 100mm of rainfall was estimated to have fallen across Argyll on Tuesday.


The suggested re-route

The government has now faces further accusations of "irresponsibility" for throwing "bad money after bad" when it is claimed a permanent solution involving the rerouting of the A83 would have resolved the issues.

Iain Jurgensen, chairman of the Argyll and The Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC) said: "It is an absolute farce. Does someone have to die before this gets proper attention.

"Michael Matheson, do you really want to stand up to someone and say your son died because we carried on regardless over years and years.

"You can plough a billion pounds into building another Forth crossing but the poor folk in Argyll who are struggling to make ends meet at the moment through this most awful of times. Yet, here we are cut off.

"Cut off because government is too bloody minded, too narrow minded, to do anything that is proactive to deal with the problem.

"That's over £75m of taxpayers' money. Wasted. You would have been better off setting fire to it.

"They will never get the money back from digging the pits. Never. That is where this money is buried now, in the pits.

"He [Michael Matheson] is not fit for purpose. He is 'make-do-and-mend' Matheson."

The A83 connects the Central Belt, via the A82 from Glasgow, to the Kintyre peninsula, all the way down to Campbeltown.


Mr Jurgensen and others says a solution is available to reroute the road using an existing track running parallel to the A83 which has not got the same slippage issues.

The A83 was closed for several days in 2014 following a 2,000 tonne landslip, then again in 2016 after a huge boulder threatened the safety of traffic. A controlled explosion had to be carried out on the 150-tonne rock.

In October 2018, the road was shut for nine days after about 2,500 tonnes of landslide debris reached catch-fences above the carriageway.

Mr Jurgensen, who is also managing director of Portavadie, the popular holiday resort overlooking Loch Fyne, added: "It is an embarrassment. People are saying that we are a third world country. We bloody are, when it comes to this.

"It is time for the First Minister to take an active interest in this, and she needs to be held accountable.

READ MORE: Rest and Be Thankful closure: Motorists face 59-mile diversion after landslip [flashback to January]

"We are the forgotten area. We are just getting folk to our tourist destinations during Covid, and just about getting the tail end of some sort of season, but this may be the deal breaker, with people deciding not to take their chances with their families to drive through."

The leader of Argyll and Bute Council has called on the First Minister to take immediate and permanent action.


She said: “This is now the second landslide of the year that has closed the Rest and Be Thankful and resulted in disruption to a major trunk road causing havoc for our communities, businesses and visitors. It is abundantly clear that mitigation measures taken by Scottish Government have yet again failed the people of Argyll and Bute.

"Taking such a shilly shally approach is simply no longer acceptable and we, as a council are asking again for a permanent solution to be identified, funded and delivered as a matter of urgency. The issues on the Rest and Be Thankful have been debated, investigated, patched up and largely ignored for the last decade and we still find ourselves in this same position again.

"There is no time to waste now, this is one of the most iconic routes in Scotland bringing millions of people to the area, a major route for commerce and a vital link for our communities. Above all, we are talking public safety and the people of Argyll and Bute deserve better."

The Rest and Be Thankful is the highest point of a scenic ten mile route running from Tarbet to the A83's junction with the B828. The words Rest & Be Thankful are inscribed on a stone near the junction, placed there by soldiers who built the original military road in 1753, now referred to as the Drovers' road.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said it recognised that a permanent solution "is key", albeit challenging, both from an engineering and financial perspective, in the current climate.

The spokesman added: “We understand the frustration this latest incident will bring for local communities and drivers. Our operating company, BEAR Scotland, is working to assess, clear and then reopen the road as quickly as possible, but can only operate when it is safe to do so.


An option involving a new route running parallel to the Old Military Road, was priced at £66–75m in 2012.

READ MORE: 'No more faffing about': Demands to reroute A83 after landslip

Other options reviously called for was to have a flyover shelter or a multi-span viaduct or a tunnel to protect road users from landslide debris. A 1km shelter was priced at £105-£120 million in 2012, while the estimate for a tunnel was £520m.

Also suggested was the creation of a single carriageway, on the opposite side of the valley to the A83, following forestry tracks. A 4km version was costed at £27-91m.