Sheriffhall: A plaster on a gaping wound

Monday March 15th 2021

Sheriffhall Roundabout

Written by Stephen Curran, Midlothian Councillor and Labour party candidate for Midlothian North and Musselburgh in the Scottish elections in May 2021.

Transport Scotland’s recent announcement of a £100k investment to improve road safety at Scotland’s most dangerous roundabout is nothing but a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.

Refurbishing the ‘Cat’s Eye’s’ may help a little, but not a lot. It does nothing to reduce journey times or pollution. It does nothing to accommodate cyclists. It does nothing to support access for pedestrians and non-motorised users.

For the third time in 12 months, Transport Minister Michael Mathieson MSP has refused to meet with me to discuss the Sheriffhall upgrade. I can understand the first request being rejected last spring, and maybe even the second request in autumn. But to refuse a third request shows a complete disregard for accountability. Our constituents are demanding answers.

Mr Mathieson states in his letter to me that the Scottish Government are ‘committed’ to Sheriffhall. Transport Scotland also reaffirmed that ‘commitment’ when I met with them in December. I’m sorry to say, but due to the passage of time and lack of action, that ‘commitment’ does not hold an ounce of credibility. It’s used all too often without any evidence to support it. The time for talking has passed.

It’s now more than a decade since it was identified that Sheriffhall required a major overhaul.Progress was made and a design was agreed. Funding secured via the City Region Deal, so no pressures there. Finally, the project was gathering pace. Out of nowhere, in December 2019 the Scottish Government, supported by the Greens, halted progress and agreed to a further delay. Little headway has been made since.

If the political will existed within the SNP Government, then construction would have already been underway. There are many major transport infrastructure projects beyond the southeast region that have been completed or are work in progress. Sheriffhall, Midlothian and wider region seem to be the bargaining tool or the comprise position for this SNP Government. I’ve lived in this county my entire life, I love this county and that’s a position I cannot and will not accept. Time for talking up the ‘commitment’ has passed – It’s action we
are now demanding.

It really is a slap in the face when you consider Midlothian’s unwavering commitment to meet Scottish Government housebuilding targets. The Scottish Government are refusing to reciprocate that responsibility with investment for transport infrastructure to support the
growth demands they place on us.

This is an unsustainable position and the following extract from a SESplan report from over 10 years ago (2009) identified this:
SESplan 2009 report extracts –

“The Edinburgh and the Lothians Structure Plan 2015 and the Regional Transport Strategy identify the grade separation of Sheriffhall roundabout as a key infrastructure project essential for the delivery of the development strategy.

“The roundabout in its current form does not have the capacity to accommodate the major housing and economic growth anticipated, and provided for, in current development plans not only in Midlothian but also in neighbouring Council areas. The continuing lack of Scottish Government commitment to grade separation at Sheriffhall will impact inevitably on the ability of Midlothian, East Lothian, south-east Edinburgh and central Scottish Borders to contribute fully to the drive for Scotland’s economic recovery.”

This upgrade is not about increasing capacity for car travel (which would counter our efforts to tackle climate change). It’s about improving safety and reducing accidents and injuries. It’s about resolving the severe congestion, reducing journey times and decreasing pollution. It’s
about improving traffic flow and access for pedestrians, cyclists and non-motorised users.

Grade separation (flyover) is urgently required, and I will continue to pressure MSPs to make sure they deliver on their ‘commitment’ to Sheriffhall and our region.

I’m encouraging people to contact me so I can hear more views on this issue. I can be contacted at Stephen.curran@midlothian.gov.uk

Councillor Stephen Curran
Midlothian Council

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