The A9 dualling is a totemic issue for people living in the Highlands. From the moment we set off on the road, we know the risks it carries—the tragedies that can unfold, impacting not only those who act recklessly or impatiently but also innocent road users who fall victim to these avoidable accidents.
For years, we endured the worry that comes with understanding just how dangerous the road can be – that’s why the promise to dual the road was so welcome.
But a promise is nothing without action, and serious action was needed to get this project over the line.
There’s no denying that the dualling project has faced its fair share of legitimate issues. We understand the immensity of the programme, but what matters is that we don’t have a safe road yet and we were promised one.
Clearly, it was a mistake for the Scottish Government to set the expectation of completing the entire dualling project by 2025 without ensuring the necessary resources, engineering, planning, and contractors could meet that timeline.
And so, we find ourselves at this juncture – frustrated and disappointed.
That’s why last week’s Courier’s A9 summit was such an important intervention. It allowed families of those who’ve lost loved ones, local campaigners and people from the business community to have their voices heard by the Cabinet Secretary and her officials.
She will be in no doubt about the seismic impact this road’s danger has on our local communities and regular road users, and I know from conversations I’ve had and the Cabinet Secretary’s own words at the Summit that getting this right is a top priority for her and the First Minister.
Still, trust needs to be earned, and the people in the Highlands 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.
We have seen major investment here by the Scottish Government in recent years, but people will quickly forget the new Justice centre, the £135m City region deal funding, the UHI campus, rail improvements, the new IRA school, the city flood prevention and the many other investments made here if the A9 dualling is not delivered.