In previous decades, we have too often been last in line for the investment. Especially in the investment in infrastructure required to start to fully match the potential for innovation in our communities, but in the last decade we have seen this change with major projects delivered or announced by the Scottish Government, including, amongst others, the Inverness Flood scheme and riverside redevelopment, the new Royal Academy, a new elective surgery unit for Raigmore, a new community hospital in Aviemore, railway upgrades, the dualling of the A9 to Inverness, the A96 and the majority funding of the £315m City Deal.
Last week’s Programme for Government announcement puts us a leap ahead.
The First Minister’s Programme for Government statement was quite literally electrifying with the announcement that the A9 would be Scotland’s first electric superhighway – meaning the flagship road project for green transport will be right here in the Highlands.
The growth of electric vehicles in Scotland, coupled with our abundance of renewable and potential renewable energy means that the game has changed – especially with the decision to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2032. There are already electric vehicles with ranges in excess of 300 miles and it is a certainty that this will improve in the next 15 years.
Nicola Sturgeon also announced a doubling of the active transport budget, to realise the potential of new walking and cycling routes. This presents a real opportunity for Inverness and the surrounding area, but only if the Council step up with ideas to challenge for their share of that funding. If they are able to match the ambition that is presented. Schemes need to planned and brought to a shovel ready state, being ready is always the best way for us to take advantage. We are ideally placed to become switched on to electric vehicles and, as “Scotland’s Cycling City” we should be leading the way in setting the vision for the future of active travel.
The “Carbon Clever” initiative has not been as vigorously pursued by the recent leadership of the Highland Council, but now is a great time to reinstate the proposition of the Highlands leading in Scotland whilst Scotland leads the world on climate change.
These measures and the many more brought forward by the SNP government will change Scotland, and the Highlands for the better.
The Scottish Government programme also included measures to improve health and to tackle obesity, to restrict the marketing of foods high in sugar, fat and salt, and to further reduce alcohol abuse. There will be a new mental health strategy focussed on prevention and early access to services – a much needed service here in the Highlands, and a breakthrough announcement on free personal care for under 65s suffering from early onset dementia.
Scotland already sees the shortest A&E waiting times in the U.K. and over the past 10 years around 12,000 extra nurses have been recruited to our hospitals. Now, along with the decision to scrap the public sector pay cap in Scotland, there will be an additional £2bn spent on the National Health Service in the coming Scottish Parliament budget.
Make no mistake, this programme will be transformational and I recommend visiting the Scottish Government website for all of the details of these and the numerous other initiatives that are coming to the Scottish Parliament.
Please note that my next constituency surgery is at Hilton Community Centre at 12:30pm on Friday and details of my other surgeries can be found at http://www.drewhendrymp.scot/constituency-surgeries/