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FERGUS EWING: Resignation brings hope for A9 dualling vision?

By Fergus Ewing

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Fiona Hyslop will be in charge of A9 dualling.
Fiona Hyslop will be in charge of A9 dualling.

In nearly a quarter of a century in Holyrood I have never called upon anyone to resign as a Minister.

To call for someone to be sacked from any job is a pretty serious step to take.

Often it seems quite malicious.

A very few opponents have called for my being sacked as a Minister, over the years, notably one Green MSP.

But, taking the advice of the distinguished Labour MP Tony Benn, I have felt it wise “never to pick a fight with a chimney sweep.”

However, tempting it may be, the desire to retaliate in kind should be resisted.

Play the ball, not the man, or else you are losing the game.

It was sadly inevitable, though, that Cabinet Secretary for Health, Michael Matheson resigned this past week after an extended row about his claiming £11,000 for iPad charges; sad for me as a friend of Michael over the same 25 years of working together.

Indeed, he and I did a walk/run (well, amble) called the Caledonian Challenge some 23 years ago.

I was the team captain and navigator of this 54-mile ultra marathon from Glen Nevis to Ardlui.

At around 3am I managed to get the four of us in the team lost just north of Loch Lomond, adding another two miles to the length of the journey!

After finding the right way, the four of us then passed a very quiet couple of hours with very little conversation!

Sad too, he was judged by MSPs across parties as one of the most effective performers the SNP front bench had.

But every cloud has a silver lining.

In the ensuing reshuffle Fiona Hyslop has been promoted to take the lead on transport brief from a previous junior minister role, and transport is now a formal cabinet role.

That bodes well for those campaigning for the dualling of the A9.

To be fair, she has come forward belatedly with a plan, and has had long experience.

It is not a stretch to say that the strength of the Inverness Courier A9 Campaign, and the frequency it is raised in Holyrood, may have led in part to the First Minister’s decision to “promote” transport to the Cabinet table.

He knows it’s a hot topic not just here but for many folk all over Scotland.

That may be some consolation to the journalists serving this newspaper which surprisingly, in the view of many, did not pick up the campaign of the year prize at the recent Highland press ball.

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