THE UK Government's Minister for Scotland has highlighted the "critical" nature of good roads following a visit to North Ayrshire.

The Conservative MP for Berwichshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk made the comments during a visit to the west coast of Scotland as he engaged with businesses, community groups and North Ayrshire Council about the opportunities and challenges they face.

As part of his visit, Mr Lamont also took a look at the B714 upgrade plans.

The road links the trunk road network from the A78 Sharphill Roundabout - Three Towns Bypass - to the A737 at the south end of Dalry, and it is a vital link for road users travelling between the Three Towns and the Garnock Valley and to the west coast, and ferry links to Arran and Cumbrae.

There are many narrow sections with tight bends, with some localised widening on the road, meaning the current geometry poses a challenge for all road users.

It is hoped that by upgrading the route, it will significantly improve connectivity between the region and Glasgow, the central belt, wider motorway network.

The project, which will substantially increase the potential for tourism and economic development, is being part funded through £23,693,443 awarded to North Ayrshire Council from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund - hence Mr Lamont's visit last week.

Though even before visiting, having previously lived nearby, the Minister said he was well aware of the need to upgrade the road.

He told the Herald: “Physical connectivity remains very important. Yes, more people are working from home but transport links and good roads are still absolutely critical.

“I know that road very well being brought up just outside Kilwinning and going to Kilwinning Academy, it’s a road that’s challenging for a whole range of reasons.

“It’s widely used in terms of it’s a commuter route, it’s surrounded by farms which obviously use the road for cattle crossing, farm machinery – that adds pressure to it.

“There’s also a safety aspect to it as well.

“It’s good news that under round one of UK Government levelling up the government was able to find the funds to make those improvements.

“It makes the road safer, it makes the road easier for people to use and it recognises the different pressures that are on it. We need to see that road improved.”

While he added that the importance of this work is only heightened by the improvements already made in the area.

Mr Lamont added: “The other challenge is now that the Dalry bypass is up and running, I think there is an extra flow of traffic coming down the valley and coming over to Ardrossan and Saltcoats and up the north coast that way as opposed to other routes.

“It’s a critical route and I’m very pleased that the UK Government is helping to fund its improvement.”

The B714 upgrade plans, which includes the creation of a potential new link between the road and the A737, will see the road width of increased to 9.3m along the full length of the route and will comprise of two 3.65m lanes with a 1m strip at either side.

There is also plans to inclusion a 3m wide active travel route, will allow cyclists and pedestrians to travel actively between Dalry and Saltcoats.

The B714 upgrade project aims to reduce the volume of traffic travelling through Kilwinning on the A737/A738 Trunk Road, which currently passes four schools.

This should also realise a reduction in pollution, congestion and the potential for accidents.