SCOTTISH MOTORISTS have been urged to take extra care as the prolonged harsh weather and limited highway maintenance programmes take an ever-deepening toll on rural roads.

Figures from Audit Scotland last week highlighted that increased demands on social care budgets may lead to further cuts in monies allocated to road repairs. The Independent Accounts Commission said that by the middle of the next decade, 80% of local authority spending in Scotland was likely to go on essential services such as education and social care, compared with 73% in 2012.

“People who live and work in rural areas already face huge problems with poorly maintained roads, a higher risk of accidents and a lack of gritting during the winter months,” noted NFU Mutual’s manager for Scotland, Martin Malone.

“The deteriorating state of rural roads has been exacerbated by the recent, prolonged freezes. Further flooding also poses an additional hazard as many deep potholes are disguised.”

Figures from NFU Mutual reveal a 48% increase in the number of pothole claims from 2015 to 2017, with the total value of claims almost doubling over the same period. The insurer’s figures form only part of the picture as many motorists might seek recompense directly from the local authority, whilst others might weather the costs themselves rather than claim on their car insurance.

The agent at NFU Mutual’s office for Skye, Lochalsh and the Western Isles, Jake Sayles, suggested that many communities which rely on tourism are already feeling the impact: “The rural road network provides a lifeline to emergency services, feed, fuel and supplies, as well as being the route in for a key source of the area’s income – tourism. In short, they are the arteries of the countryside and if they are unusable it will have serious implications on rural lives and the local economy.

"While some routes have been repaired, the smaller roads have been forgotten and are in very poor condition due to underinvestment and increased traffic from visitors.

He added: “Pothole damage has a double impact on a rural business, as not only might they have to replace an expensive piece of equipment but there can also be up to a fortnight’s downtime waiting for parts, which adds even more misery to their situation.

“Rural road users such as cyclists and horse riders are also at risk as they may need to take sudden avoiding action when they encounter a pothole or may ride, unsuspecting, into deep potholes which are filled with rainwater.”