WHOEVER becomes the new leader of the SNP and first minister, that person will face the same issues regarding the limited availability of funding for providing health and educational services and for local government responsibilities.

As a former local authority roads and traffic engineer, I have a particular interest in the declining state of our roads infrastructure – a situation not helped by all the current activity by utility companies who seem to be digging up our roads and footways willy-nilly. This is causing considerable undue delay to essential road users such as buses and goods vehicles and even emergency services.

This week, the bus on which I was travelling in and out of Glasgow had 15-20 minutes added to its journey time in both directions by two sets of works on the A81 in Glasgow.

Meanwhile, the poor bus driver also had to cope with massive potholes in the road surface – many associated with previous poorly reinstated utility work.

The right of utility companies (electricity, gas, telecoms and water) to lay their apparatus under public roads and footways is enshrined in the New Roads and Street Works Act of 1991. This act was introduced shortly after these functions were privatised (except for water in Scotland). When these functions were delivered by publicly owned organisations, it made some sense to allow public utilities to occupy public roads and footways.

However, airlines can’t use runways free of charge; train operators have to pay for the use of rail tracks, and road users have to pay to be allowed to drive on roads (road tax and sometimes tolls).

It makes no sense at all that privatised companies should be able to take advantage of the freedom to lay their apparatus on roads and footways free of charge.

Not only should they pay for the initial privilege but they should continue to pay an annual fee to the local roads authority and, I would suggest, for every day that they occupy any part of the road for their work. The longer a job takes, the more they should pay.

Ian Lawson