ANGER has been expressed about a decision to carry out a 100k project to install Gaelic road signs on the A82 in Fort William.
Motorists and local politicians are questioning the scheme to put in the bilingual signs, at a time when local and national government has to cut spending and many sections of the town's road network, including the A82, are crumbling.
Bilingual signs are being provided on the A82 between Tarbet and Inverness and on west coast trunk roads that pass through mainland communities where Gaelic is spoken and lead to the Western Isles ferry ports of Kennacraig, Oban, Uig and Ullapool.
The Fort William works have been taking place over the last fortnight, with signs being replaced the length of the town, from Achintore Road to Lochybridge roundabout.
Bilingual signs have been implemented across the north of Scotland on a rolling basis since 2003 when a policy was agreed between Scottish ministers and councils. The signs replace ones in poor condition as part of improvement works.
But this week, questions have been raised about whether the scheme is a good use of taxpayers' money when potholes are multiplying after the recent big freeze.
Taxi driver Iain Cameron, of Caol Cabs, told the Lochaber News: "I can't understand how they can find the money to replace the signs when the roads and pavements are falling to pieces.
"There are sections of road in this town that are an absolute disgrace. You've got to keep a look out for potholes all the time.
"The surface at Lochybridge roundabout is a shambles. That's where they should be working. They need to get their priorities in order."
Torlundy driver Thomas MacLennan, a former Highland councillor, said: "During financial cutbacks, the vast majority of taxpayers would like to see the A82 upgraded, roads resurfaced, potholes being fixed, sightlines being enhanced, culverts cleared, adequate gritting being done.
"At a local level, Lochybridge junction needs to be sorted properly, something done about the ghost cars currently coming out of Inverlochy that are holding back traffic on the A82 and if there is money left over the two dual carriageway roundabouts planted and the approaches to the town spruced up.
"In other words, get the basics sorted and concentrate on things that make a contribution to road safety."
Highland councillors have also raised concerns.
Caol and Mallaig member Eddie Hunter said: "I'm thinking that perhaps in these tough economic times we should be concentrating on repairing the roads and potholes, rather than replacing what appear to be reasonably good road signs."
Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor Donald Cameron said: "There is a whole debate that needs to be had on this issue.
"I can understand the reaction from motorists on this one. People do ask me if there is a Gaelic word for recession.
"But there is a Gaelic plan and I recognise that funding is in place for this. However, people are entitled to ask about priorities, particularly in the current climate."
Yesterday (Wednesday), a spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: "The implementation of bilingual signs commenced in 2003 as agreed by Scottish ministers, Highland and Argyll and Bute Councils, and the current sign work at Fort William completes the A82 stage of the programme.
"This seven-year period has seen an investment of approximately 2 million to provide bilingual signage on routes across Scotland, of which approximately 100,000 is being invested at Fort William."
The spokeswoman added: "Regarding potholes on the A82, our operating company, Scotland Transerv, is contractually obliged to repair carriageway defects, including potholes, within certain timescales based upon their location and severity. Following a period of severe weather, it is normal for us to see an increase in numbers of potholes recorded on the network."
l Works to address the "out of sync" traffic lights at the A82/Inverlochy junction have been scheduled for early March, Transport Scotland has informed local councillors.