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Highland healthcare group criticises Highland Council over continued support for A9 and A96 dualling

By Neil MacPhail

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A dualled section of the A9 at Inverness.
A dualled section of the A9 at Inverness.

HIGHLAND Council has been taken to task over its continued support for dualling of the A9 and A96.

Highland Healthcare for Climate Action (HHCA), a group of healthcare practitioners, said the local authority’s stance makes no sense in light of the fact it has declared a climate and ecological emergency.

The council’s support was recently reiterated in a press release issued as the future of the dualling projects was being questioned in the light of moves by the Scottish Government and Scottish Greens to reach a working partnership agreement.

HHCA spokeswoman Dr Kristina High said: “Highland Council declared a climate and ecological emergency in 2019, therefore continuing to support dualling is completely incongruous in the context of this declaration.”

She said: “While there is a plan for electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles in the future, this is not going to be soon enough to mitigate the increase in emissions caused by continued dualling.”

She rejected suggestions that dual carriageways cut accidents and said the current use of average-speed cameras on sections of the A9 had a much more significant impact.

“Investment would be much better channelled into improving rail infrastructure and the active travel network,” she added. “By dualling the railways to and from the Highlands, freight could be moved more easily, thereby moving more freight off the trunk roads.”

In response, Highland Council said it takes its 2019 declaration seriously, but dualling was a vital part of ensuring the region’s recovery from the pandemic.

Councillor Trish Robertson, chairwoman of the council’s climate change working group, said: “The Highland Council fully supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to see the public sector’s light commercial fleet decarbonised by 2025, its heavy fleet by 2030, as well as the removal of the need for new petrol and diesel vehicles more generally by 2030.

“The council has recently appointed a dedicated fleet decarbonisation officer to expedite this process.”

n Organisers of the Kidical Mass Inverness group, part of a worldwide movement for active travel, have announced plans for a gathering this Saturday starting at 1.30pm at Bellfield Park and travelling to the Highland Archive Centre at Whin Park.

Last week they shared a letter from organiser Ian Tallach to councillors about the importance of adequate active travel measures for him and the impact of the recent scaling back of the Spaces for People initiative in the city.

The former paediatrician, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, said: “During the lockdown we consoled ourselves that there was at least one ray of hope – active travel measures were being implemented in Inverness.”

While measures did not going as far as he would have liked, he added: “Our dismay when even these changes were rescinded, was crushing.

“As a member of the disabled community I can vouch for countless others in saying that whatever creates problems with access for the majority affects us disproportionately.

“It can literally mean the difference between hope and the slow implosion and despair which accompany chronic illness.”

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