Dualling of the A9
I know there won’t be a person reading that this can’t relate to the horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know a loved one is driving up or down the A9. Most, of course, get in touch to say they’ve reached their destination safely. But, tragically, not everyone is so lucky.
I understand and share in the frustration and disappointment with the 2025 target not being met. It is clear that this target was too ambitious and didn’t allow time for the legitimate issues that the dualling project has faced. I understand the immensity of the programme, but what matters is that we don’t have a safe road yet, and we were promised one.
Cabinet Minister, Màiri McAllan, attended the A9 Summit in Inverness, and it was clear she was left in no doubt about the seismic impact this road’s danger has on our local communities and regular road users. I know from conversations I’ve had and from the Cabinet Secretary’s own words that getting this right is a top priority for her, the Transport Minister, and the First Minister.
As your MP, I’ve made clear to colleagues in the Scottish Government that we will not settle for anything less than a clear plan with achievable milestones for completion – and the budget commitment to back it up. My colleagues and I will certainly be on the case to ensure that outcome. To that end, the Cabinet Secretary has committed to updating us all in the autumn on the next steps to get this programme back on track. However, a promise is nothing without action, and serious action is needed to get this project over the line.
This project isn’t just about connectivity; it’s about safety and ensuring no more lives are needlessly lost. The dualling of the A9 must be treated as the number one transport infrastructure priority for Scotland, and I will continue to make this case.
Inverness Airport is an indispensable asset to the Highlands. For local holidaymakers, it offers a convenient and quick way to travel abroad either directly or via so-called “hub airports” such as Gatwick and Heathrow in London or Schipol in Amsterdam. Having this link to far-flung destinations plays its part in making the Highlands an attractive place to live and work. Similarly, it makes it far easier for tourists from elsewhere in the world to come and enjoy our world-renowned Highland hospitality, attractions, beauty spots and the like.
The same can also be said for the world of business. In my role as your MP, I am required to be in Westminster several days a week to represent your interests and make your voices heard. On my flights down to London, I often see many of the same faces boarding with me to make their way down south, presumably to their own jobs in the city. The direct flightpath allows folk to settle here up north with their families whilst working elsewhere, taking their paycheque back up the road (or air) with them at the end of every month and so contributing to our local economies. It’s a system that stands to benefit people from all walks of life in Inverness and across the Highland region.
But, unfortunately, this flight corridor is as fragile as it is crucial. In recent months and years, we’ve seen some of the airlines roll back on some of the flights they operate, with some being cut completely. I understand there are external factors at play. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic naturally hit the travel industry particularly hard. Other global events, such as the war in Ukraine, have affected airlines’ ability to conduct their business in and over Europe. I do sympathise with some of the business arguments for looking at how they conduct their operations in an ever-changing world, but it seems ludicrous to cut back on flights to and from Inverness that are nearly always full or very busy.
Rest assured, I know how vital these air connections are, and I will be working with others to ensure that the airlines understand that the business is there to be made and that the Highlands remains open to all.
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