In a letter to the British Road Federation, the text of which is attached, Lord James said that it was wrong to suggest, as the federation had last week, that the government was disregarding the concerns felt in many communities about the effect of heavy traffic volumes.
He added that significant improvements were being made in many areas of town centre traffic management, especially through route action plans.
The full text of the minister's letter is as follows:
'This is not the case. Although the financial constraints that we are under mean that many construction schemes are being deferred, significant improvements are being made in many areas. Our limited funds for road building are allocated according to a strategy set out in 1992 in Roads, Traffic and Safety.
'This strategy was based on the most extensive strategic study ever carried out on Scotland's roads. In short a hierarchical approach was developed involving:
'1. A programme of major improvement schemes with the emphasis on the core network of strategic routes.
'2. A complementary programme of comprehensive route action plans on selected routes including some long distance core network routes.
'3. A route management strategy to be developed across the remainder of the network to improve the co-ordination of minor improvement schemes, accident remedial measures and maintenance.
'Our recognition of the need to concentrate the majority of funds on the strategic network, to ensure a core of first class routes for the strategic commercial traffic of vital importance to the country's economy, led us to reconsider how environmental and safety problems in towns experiencing through traffic could be met.
'In many cases the traffic volumes travelling through towns are not disproportionate to the capacity of the roads. Where in the light of competing pressures a clear strategic case could not be sustained for giving priority to the preparation or construction of a bypass, alternative solutions have been sought through the route action plans.
'In this way, earlier relief can be given to towns than would be possible through the funding of a bypass and more cost effectively.
'Traffic calming and management schemes have been brought forward for towns such as Fochabers on the A96, Langholm on the A7 and Kirkconnel-Sanquhar on the A76 including others. In other cases, where a bypass is the only practical option, design work has continued and the three year programme announced by the secretary of state this spring included schemes for Kintore and Dalkeith.
'This having been said, and as you recognise, the availability of funds is a major issue determining the rate at which bypasses can be brought forward. However the transfer of investment away from strategic roads would not necessarily help the situation. In many cases as the motorway network becomes congested the inevitable result would be the transfer of traffic back onto urban streets, for example through Cumbernauld as congestion on the A80 increases.
'I am copying this letter to the press so that they may be fully aware of the government's position.'