The rise in the number of fatalities on Highland Roads from 14 to 32 is further clear evidence of the need to dual the A9 from Perth to Inverness.

This is an issue of life and death.

READ MORE: Highland road deaths reach highest level in 15 years

Driver responsibility and error is, sadly, the major factor behind all road traffic incidents.

However, the A9 , is particularly ‘unforgiving’ of driver error, especially because of the rapid and frequent alternation between single and dual carriageway, and indeed '2+1' sections too.

This is confusing even for seasoned users such as myself, but especially perhaps those from other countries unfamiliar with our roads and Highway Code and rules of the road.

Moreover, where there are head-on collisions it will generally be one vehicle that was at fault and the other or others involved are then the innocent victims who may lose their lives.

I'm afraid that this continuing human tragedy will be repeated again and again over the years ahead.

A fully dualled road will result in lives saved.

The Herald:

With no central reservation to separate opposing flows of traffic, the chances of head-on collisions are far greater on single than on dual carriageways or motorways.

Indeed, evidence from the Road Safety Foundation suggests that one is three times more likely to lose one's life in an incident on a single than a dualled road and seven times more likely than when driving on a motorway.

In the year 2022 there were 13 fatalities on the A9 between Perth and Inverness and all but one of those were on single carriageway sections of the road.

Road safety measures are being proposed, and that’s welcome as far as it goes, though several specific measures recommended by Highland communities have been peremptorily rejected.

But it does not address the main problems of the road which I have described.

The Scottish Government have failed to deliver the project by 2025 as promised since 2008, but now say a statement will be made “this autumn.”

That makes this pledge the longest — and the oldest — pledge of the SNP which has not been delivered.

Indeed in our 2021 manifesto, we actually claimed credit for dualling the A9 when only one section had been completed!


The Herald:

As someone who has campaigned for this project for three decades, and for the last 24 years, as the constituency MSP for Inverness, I have called on the Scottish Government in their Autumn statement to deliver full details of when each remaining section will be dualled, how it will be funded, and a new deadline for overall project completion.

READ MORE: Alex Neil criticises Nicola Sturgeon over failure to dual A9

A Programme Board including local council representatives from Highland and Perth and Kinross should be formed and report to the public bi-annually to drive progress forward.

Moreover, four of the remaining nine single-carriageway sections reached the “made orders” stage, around two years ago.

This means they have for all that period been “shovel-ready” to go into procurement.

So why the delay? And why have we waited nearly four years for the reporter's decision on another section and further delays on yet more sections?

Many may infer that the Scottish Government have been dragging their feet- deliberately delaying progress whilst at the same time pledging total commitment to the completion of the project.

Transport Scotland, described by an industry representative in his evidence to the Holyrood Petitions Committee on the 14th of June, as “the worst client in the UK” has given no clear explanation why these four sections have not gone to procurement.

Surely they should have done that, given the First Minister has said that the pledge to dual is a “cast iron guarantee”?

So, my call is also that the Scottish Government in their autumn statement announce that these four sections go straight into procurement with no further delay.

The people of the North of Scotland want more tarmac, not more talk.

Promises are just words on a page. The broken promises have severed the trust of the public.

My current fear and suspicion is the Scottish Government in their Autumn Statement fail to deliver in the way I have called for.

My worry is that instead in their proposed Autumn Statement — which incidentally, I do not expect until at least early in December — they make a vague promise to use for the purposes of the funding the rest of the project, the new embryonic so-called “kilt” bonds, mooted by the First Minister at the SNP conference in Aberdeen.

The Herald: Humza Yousaf

Furthermore, I am concerned that they will give no clear dates for when there will be constructed each of the four sections which have been ready to go to procurement for around the past two years; and finally, that they fail to give clarity about how precisely each of the remaining sections will be funded and will be procured.

READ MORE: Yousaf freezes council tax to help with cost-of-living crisis

Of course, the danger is that if the “kilt” bonds fail to materialise as some already predict, then the A9 dualling project may fail with them.

They should surely deploy the Scottish Government's Capital budget which is about £5 billion pounds each year.

I earnestly hope my fears prove to be wrong.

Indeed, I challenge the Scottish Government to prove me wrong!

But, if my fears are founded then the result will be that the SNP in the Highlands will see more deserters than from the French Foreign Legion.

Fergus Ewing is the Scottish National Party MSP for Inverness and Nairn