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Nicky Marr: Remember the promise Humza Yousaf made us about the A9? Let's take a look at what he said...

By Nicky Marr

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Humza Yousaf. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Humza Yousaf. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Too often, with the centre of power lying in the Central Belt or Westminster, those of us on the geographical fringes are overlooked.

But once again, The Inverness Courier are sticking their heads proudly and publicly above the parapet, by creating events that draw the plight of our local communities to the attention of those who have the power to make change. I am proud be part of the team that brings these events to life.

Tuesday afternoon will see a capacity audience at Eden Court for the A9 Crisis Summit. This follows the Government’s broken promises, made in 2007 and 2011, to dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness by 2025.

21 people have died on the A9 since January 2022, with the vast majority of accidents occurring on single carriageway stretches. With no safety barriers between north and south carriages, and unsafe junctions, it’s only a matter of time before another fatality is reported. Broken promises are one thing; broken promises that cost lives are quite another.

My job on Tuesday is to host the event and moderate the panel discussion, and in preparation, I have spent the last three weeks talking to safety campaigners, representatives from the construction industry, business leaders, and politicians.

I have watched the evidence given to the Public Petitions Committee of The Scottish Parliament about why the A9 has not been dualled up to now, and talked to civil engineers about what it will take to get the job done. And I have driven the route itself, but this time an eye to what measures might make the road safer while we wait for dualling to be completed.

On Tuesday I’ll be joined on stage by Mairi McAllan, the new Cabinet Secretary for Transport, but also by the interim Chief Executive of Transport Scotland, Alison Irvine, and by Rob Galbraith, who has responsibility for the A9 Dualling Project.

Also there will be representatives from business, and road safety campaigners. Fergus Ewing, recently highly vocal about his government’s failures here, will also be on the panel.

But what can The A9 Crisis Summit hope to achieve?

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We’re not sure whether there will be any earth-shattering announcements about a new timetable for the A9 to be dualled, or even for the beleaguered Tomatin to Moy section to be put out to tender again. We’ve been told we’ll have to wait till the autumn for a new timetable.

But why autumn? Wasn’t this a priority of our new First Minister, Humza Yousaf, even before he took office?

Four months ago, The Inverness Courier held an SNP leadership Debate with all three of the candidates who were vying to become Scotland’s First Minister. Ours was the only regional media group in the country to secure a debate which was about issues that were important to our local communities, and it gained coverage across the world.

Alongside questions about local healthcare and maternity services, poverty in Merkinch, and the housing crisis, The Scottish Government’s broken promise by to dual the A9 by 2025 was a hot topic.

The recording of the Leadership Debate is on YouTube, and I watched it back to remind myself of what was said. These are Humza Yousaf’s words:

“We have a commitment to dual it, I have a commitment to dual it. But the main thing we have to do is come in, not within months, but within weeks, to give you a timetable for the A9 completion, and make sure that finances show and demonstrate that it’s a priority for government.”

Weeks? The silence since March has been deafening.

You’ll hear the outcome of tomorrow’s Crisis Summit in the coming days, and The Inverness Courier and her sister papers will be holding Transport Scotland and The Scottish Government to account until the job is complete.

The goal is for there to be no more collisions, no more fatalities. Dualling is the first step towards that.

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