MICHAEL Russell has hit back at the Scottish Greens in a road improvements spat sparked by a landslip at the Rest and Be Thankful.

The route on the A83 has been blocked in both directions following an estimated 65mm of rainfall across Argyll and Bute. Debris from several landslips has also blocked the fastest alternative route along the Old Military Road, forcing drivers to take a 60-mile detour.

It is the second time this year the road has been hit by landlsips, with the stretch blocked for two days in January after being covered by 1300 tonnes of debris.

Scottish Greens Transport Spokesperson John Finnie is demanding a “radical rethink” on how the Scottish Government spends it transport budget.

The Highlands and Islands MSP said: “There is a £3 billion backlog on road maintenance, £1.8 million is for trunk routes the Scottish Government is directly responsible for. Yet, rather than maintain these roads, the Scottish Government charges blindly on spending £6bn on dualling two roads, encouraged all the way by the other opposition parties.

“On behalf of my constituents in Argyll, I say ‘enough is enough’. The Scottish Government must urgently rejig its roads budget and provide Argyll respite from a 60-mile diversion I wager would not be acceptable anywhere outwith the Highlands.”

Argyll and Bute MSP Russell, emphasising that the area remains “open for business”, issued a stinging rebuke to Finnie.

“I actually live in Cowal, unlike some of those who are commenting,” he said. “I know at first hand the problems this situation causes.”

READ MORE: A83 Rest and Be Thankful blocked by landslips after torrential rain

The Constitution Secretary stressed that he had worked hard to ensure that Old Military Road alternative was opened in a bid to prevent people from having to take lengthy diversions.

He continued: “I am really sorry that this slip has affected that too on this occasion but that not only shows the extraordinarily difficult location and the extreme conditions yesterday which caused the landslides but also emphasises the real problem that any replacement route will have in terms of constructing it in such a very challenging spot.

“Nonetheless a solution that guarantees uninterrupted access has to happen and I have also fought for that alongside many local people. There are a number of possible routes now identified and nobody doubts that it will be constructed. However such a complex undertaking inevitably takes time.

“It is to be regretted that the opposition spokespeople now rushing to be heard haven’t kept up with the process which is under way nor with the very substantial expenditure that has taken place in order to provide as much mitigation as possible meanwhile, mitigation that has helped avoid a large number of closures.”

Russell said £80 million has been spent on work reduce and minimise the impact of landslips.

He added: “I will be working with the Transport Secretary in order to urge whatever acceleration of the design and planning process for a replacement can take place and I would welcome support in that from any other quarter including opposition parties.”

The A83 remains closed after specialist geotechnical contractors concluded there was still movement on the hillside.

They say it is therefore unsafe to begin clean-up operations or carry out further assessments.