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FERGUS EWING: Let's get A9 Inverness-Perth dualling details before all leaves fall

By Fergus Ewing

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The SNP has admitted it will fail to deliver its promise to complete the dualling of the A9 from Inverness to Perth by 2025.
The SNP has admitted it will fail to deliver its promise to complete the dualling of the A9 from Inverness to Perth by 2025.

In the first week back at Holyrood after the summer recess, the First Minister in his major address, gave welcome reassurances of his commitments to dual the A9 and to dual the A96 between Inverness and Auldearn including the Nairn bypass. Warm words – sincerely delivered.

However, now, halfway through this Session of Parliament, we still await the detail about how and when these projects will be procured and delivered, and how they will be funded. That full statement is promised “in the autumn”. I hope we do not have to wait until all the leaves have fallen from the trees.

Meanwhile, the Petitions Committee, on which I serve, decided that our work on the A9 project will be a full inquiry and will therefore take more evidence. The evidence we have taken so far, including from petitioner Laura Hansler, and Grahame Barn speaking for civil engineering industry, has already been influential: influential both in maximising political pressure, but also persuading the agency, Transport Scotland, to change its broken procurement system.

It’s an example, I believe, of how our parliamentary committees should work, with collaboration across parties.

Thanks Winnie

Last week, Holyrood also heard a Motion of Condolence for my late mother Winnie – who of course reconvened the Scottish Parliament back in May 1999. Other “old hands” from 1999, Tory Murdo Fraser and Labour's Jackie Baillie were amongst the speakers who gave warm tributes with many amusing stories and reflections about Winnie.

But whilst I am doubtless biased, it’s fair to say that the show as it were was stolen by my sister and fellow MSP, Annabelle, who made a moving and at times humorous speech about our mother. Not an easy thing to do because of the emotion involved. I was very proud of my sister and indeed she did mum proud. She reminded us of Winnie’s four practical hopes, expressed in that very first speech that was made in 1999.

These were: to work consensually; to be fair to minorities; to pursue better relations with others on these islands; and to live in harmony with those who are born here and those who move to this country. All work in progress, perhaps!

Health matters

I am pressing NHS Highland to return delivery of vaccination and other services to the many GP practices who wish to provide them.

I also met the deputy health minister Jenny Minto last week regards lack of NHS dental treatment – a very serious problem for many.

I will come back to these vital matters in due course, but they are both areas where we simply must make more progress.

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