ON December 21, 1972, the then Secretary for Scotland, Gordon Campbell, was asked a question about plans to improve the A9 in the Highlands.  “The urgent task is to reconstruct A9 between Perth and Inverness on a new line where it now follows a winding route with poor visibility,” he responded. “This will give traffic the improved road it needs in the shortest possible time In fact, the new A9 would take another 10 years and cost £200 million. It would also require the building of bridges, including the Kessock Bridge and the Cromarty Bridge, and even the diverting of the course of the River Tay, as the highest trunk road in the country, traversing some 137 miles, was reconstructed. In the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive there is a film, The Highland Highway, made in 1982 by Paddy Higson, that records the building of “the longest new road to be built in Britain in the 20th century. Higson’s film is a vivid time capsule of a moment when the open road was still a symbol of freedom and economic opportunity rather than a potential danger to the environment.
The A9, which now runs some 273 miles in total, is a road with a long history. It still follows a similar route as the road constructed by General Wade in the 18th century. Wade had been sent north in 1724 to report on how best to combat the threat of the Jacobites. His solution was a series of forts and connecting roads. 
Wade’s military roads were later improved on by Thomas Telford at the start of the 19th century. But by the 1970s there were issues with congestion, prompting a reconstruction which aimed to bypass many of the towns and villages struggling to cope with road traffic. 
That process of upgrading continues today with the government’s controversial plan to upgrade 80 miles of single carriageway between Perth and Inverness to dual status.
In his book On Roads: A Hidden History, Joe Moran argues that roads are “just part of the invisible landscape of the everyday.” In other words, we see them as means to an end rather than an end in itself. And yet the A9 is a link between the central belt and the Scottish Highlands. It’s an arrow aimed at the far north, one that takes travellers through the Cairngorms and across the Black Isle. It is a tarmac spine that supports a country. 
The road goes on forever. Or at least as far as Scrabster Harbour.