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Kate Forbes warns the A9 is not just a 'Highland problem; it is of national importance'

By Scott Maclennan

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Earlier MSP Kate Forbes said Highlanders will not 'endure' the anguish and fear of deaths on the A9 any longer.
Earlier MSP Kate Forbes said Highlanders will not 'endure' the anguish and fear of deaths on the A9 any longer.

Kate Forbes has described the condition of the A9 “ isn’t just a rural, Highland problem; it is of national importance” and the “number of fatalities should be a cause for national grief.”

The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP and former First Minister candidate was giving evidence at the public petitions committee where she called for the dualling programme to be prioritised.

Ms Forbes argued that the importance of the route was such that it should receive “significant capital funding from the Scottish Government on safety and economic grounds.”

She also praised the efforts of the A9 Dual Action campaign group, and especially spokeswoman Laura Hansler who addressed committee members earlier in the session at the Scottish Parliament.

National importance

Ms Forbes said: “As the longest road in Scotland, the A9 is our nation’s backbone. The condition of the road isn’t just a rural, Highland problem; it is of national importance.

“Last year, 13 people died on the A9 between Perth and Inverness. Last month, an 18-year-old lost his life. The number of fatalities should be a cause for national grief. Many were local residents, people who have driven the road for years.

“The A9 is many Highlanders’ commute to work, our route to the shops and our means of meeting friends. It remains a national gateway for people, goods and services.

“It connects north and south, bringing mutual benefit as Highland goods like food and drink are transported south.”

Blatantly obvious

Ms Forbes also hit out at suggestions that climate promises mean no work should be done to the A9 arguing the Highlands should not be “penalised” for what the Central Belt already has enjoyed for years.

“There have been blunt suggestions from certain quarters that continued investment in roads is contrary to our climate change ambitions,” she said. “Transport is a significant contributor to our national emissions but net zero policies should not penalise the Highlands.

“It’s blatantly obvious that rural Scotland relies more heavily on car use, but rural Scotland should not disproportionately bear the brunt of Scotland’s transition to net zero.

“Cracking down on cars and stopping all road projects, without substantial investment in public transport, will hinder efforts to bolster the population and invest in rural Scotland.

“You might be able to cycle to your local shop in the centre of Glasgow, but I’d like to see you try in rural Scotland. There might be hourly buses – at worst – in the middle of Edinburgh. In some Highland communities, you’re lucky if you see one a day.

“In that vein, any suggestion that dualling the A9 is incompatible with our climate change targets spectacularly fails to recognise the nature of the Highlands and islands.

“The Scottish Government has a target to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans in the coming decade. It wants to see more of us going electric. If we are to achieve that, then those electric vehicles will need safe roads and infrastructure – that includes a safer (and more electrified) A9.

“We need to see a new timetable to dual the remaining sections – and we need better processes to ensure it happens.”

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