SCOTLAND'S transport minister has been urged to meet local campaigners to hear first-hand the importance of approving upgrades to the A77.

Labour MSP Colin Smyth raised the issue of improvements to the vital trunk road between central Scotland and the ferry ports at Cairnryan during 'question time' at the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Smyth asked the Scottish Government to "urgently" publish a delivery plan for long-sought-after improvements to the A77.

Both routes are used by hundreds of heavy goods vehicles transporting goods between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Mr Smyth was responding after transport minister Fiona Hyslop was quizzed on upgrades to the A75 between Stranraer and Dumfries.

He said: “I hear what the minister says about discussions with the UK Government about the A75, but the commitments regarding work on both trunk roads were made by the Scottish Government in its strategic transport review, and the A77 does not feature at all in the UK Government’s connectivity review.

“Does the minister accept that there is real frustration in the community, and from businesses such as the ferry companies operating from Cairnryan, about the fact that we do not have a clear timeline or a clear commitment to funding the promised improvements to those trunk roads?

“Will she agree to meet a cross-party delegation of members and representatives of local campaign groups, in order to hear why improving those vital road links is so crucial to the economy of the south-west of Scotland?”

Ms Hyslop said the government had already delivered resurfacing work on the A77 worth £1.4 million on the A77 this year alone.

She added: "I have already heard representations - from industry, in particular - on a number of occasions, and I think that Colin Smyth’s points about Cairnryan are well made.

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"If diary commitments permit, I would certainly be interested to meet the campaigners.

"However, I reiterate that the interested parties from whom I have heard so far have said that they really want action on the realignment at Springholm and Crocketford [on the A75].

"That is the piece of work that we understand that the UK Government wants to help to fund.

"There are other areas that we have been supporting and funding, not least the fact that we have supported six maintenance programmes on the A77 in this financial year alone.

"As I have said to many members who have asked such questions, it should be remembered that the Maybole bypass, which has made a big difference to people who use the A77, was delivered by this Government."

Speaking after the exchange in the Holyrood chamber, Mr Smyth added: “Time and again our region has been ignored and fobbed off when it comes to improving vital transport links.

“The A75 and A77 are vital roads for transporting goods to and from Northern Ireland but they are not fit for purpose.

“It’s time we saw some action from our governments and the first step is for Fiona Hyslop to come and meet with both politicians and the many local people who have been campaigning tirelessly for so many years.”