One of the worst moments in this job is when you get that call from the police to say that there has been a road accident in the constituency. Instantly, you know what it’s going to be – another accident and probable fatality on the A9. Immediately, thoughts go out to the family involved and hopes are that it is not as bad as initially conveyed.
All of us who live in Perthshire are familiar with this danger that exists on our doorstep. Nearly 70 people were killed on the road between 2006 and 2010 and the road’s notoriety as a killer road is well deserved. My first experience of the dangers of this road was back in 2001 when I was a candidate standing for the first time. Just months before my election, three generations of an Israeli family were killed in one of the most serious accidents on the road at the old Ballinluig junction. It was following that incident that I vowed that I would do everything that I could to ensure that this killer road became safe. Since then, we have secured the new grade-separated junction at Ballinluig and the new junction at Bankfoot, all good, but not enough to make this road completely safe. What, of course, is required is the full dualling between Perth and Inverness.
That is why I am so pleased that real progress is now being made. The SNP Scottish Government have now committed to a full dualling programme between Perth and Inverness for the first time. But it won’t be an easy task. Dualling the A9 is a complex and challenging programme, indeed it is possibly one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in Scotland. Contractors have now been appointed to carry out preliminary engineering work and communities in Bankfoot and Dunkeld have already seen plans for the road round their communities. The scale of the project means that this won’t happen overnight. Communities need to be fully consulted and the challenging environment properly assessed.
When complete, a dualled A9 will bring many benefits to the communities of Perthshire and the Highlands. We will have a safe and free-flowing link to the Highlands bringing real economic benefits
What we need is for all of Perthshire’s politicians to work together to make this happen. The priority now must be the upgrading of the A9, not the unwanted Edinburgh trams. Yes, we want this done as soon as possible, but I think we should ensure that communities have their say and the work is properly assessed and planned.