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Maree Todd urged to intervene over 'much-needed improvements to vital A9'


By Alan Hendry

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Matthew Reiss (Thurso and Northwest Caithness) and Andrew Jarvie (Wick and East Caithness) are part of the five-strong Highland Alliance group.
Matthew Reiss (Thurso and Northwest Caithness) and Andrew Jarvie (Wick and East Caithness) are part of the five-strong Highland Alliance group.

Maree Todd is being urged to intervene over the need for "basic maintenance" tasks along several stretches of the A9 in the Highlands.

The call has come from the five-strong Highland Alliance group on Highland Council who represent wards in Caithness, Sutherland, Ross-shire and Inverness.

The councillors have presented Ms Todd, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, with a list of "modest" requirements – from work to avoid landslips and flooding to cutting back roadside trees.

The Highland Alliance members are Matthew Reiss (Thurso and Northwest Caithness), Duncan Macpherson (Inverness South), Andrew Jarvie (Wick and East Caithness), Maxine Smith (Cromarty Firth) and Jim McGillivray (East Sutherland and Edderton).

In a joint letter to Ms Todd, they note her "rather curt dismissal" of concerns over healthcare provision and the trunk road that were raised last week by Richard Gale and Ron Gunn, who chair the local authority's Sutherland and Caithness area committees respectively.

Councillors Gale and Gunn, who are both Liberal Democrats, challenged Ms Todd to either "step up to the mark or resign".

The Highland Alliance members told Ms Todd: "You commented that you wouldn’t take any lessons from the Liberal Democrats.

"Councillors Gale and Gunn were speaking for a majority of local members so we were a bit taken aback by your overtly political response which did not address the simple and reasonable requests for you to involve yourself in local matters.

"Part of that request was, and remains, a plea for you to get involved in helping your constituents get much-needed modest improvements to the vital A9. In fact, the ask is not so much for improvements but basic maintenance.

"The Highland Alliance is, at present, a five-strong grouping of independent members and we are hoping you might consider our observations in a more constructive manner. Between us we cover much of the A9 within the Highland Council area including all Caithness, east Sutherland, the Cromarty Firth and the Inverness to Slochd section."

The letter goes on to list "some basic maintenance that has been long neglected by BEAR/Transport Scotland", from Scrabster and Berriedale in the north to the Tomatin and Carrbridge areas in the south.

It adds: "We ask you to get involved and constructively push your government to start helping to reverse the depopulation which is partly caused by poor roads. A relatively small sum of money would go a long way to help – this is for simple maintenance.

"Please would you at least consider this information and resist the temptation to deploy dubious political responses?"

Maree Todd says she continues to engage regularly with Transport Scotland on A9 safety improvements and maintenance. Picture: Iona MacDonald
Maree Todd says she continues to engage regularly with Transport Scotland on A9 safety improvements and maintenance. Picture: Iona MacDonald

Ms Todd said: “I continue to engage regularly with Transport Scotland on road safety improvements and maintenance of the A9 north of Inverness on behalf of my constituents.

“I am happy to look into the specific stretches of road Councillor Reiss has highlighted, and I hope to be able to meet with him in a couple of weeks’ time when I am in Caithness to discuss his concerns further.

“I have written to both the Scottish Government and NHS Highland recently on issues Councillor Reiss has raised with me, and I have provided him with responses from both the transport minister, Fiona Hyslop, and the chief executive of NHS Highland.

“I am aware that the transport minister attended a meeting with the Caithness Transport Forum in the last few weeks. This enabled local representatives and stakeholders to raise issues directly with the minister, which I know was welcomed by attendees and valued by Ms Hyslop.”

Councillor Macpherson's Inverness South ward stretches along almost 20 miles of the A9 – from the University of the Highlands alongside the Raigmore Interchange in Inverness, south to Drumossie Brae, Daviot, Moy and Tomatin and on to the Slochd Summit, one of the highest points on the trunk road.

He said: “The non-political Highland Alliance members are perfectly placed with their council wards, covering huge stretches along the A9, to give Ms Todd the thoughts and observations of constituents and A9 road users on their concerns and areas of importance for essential maintenance and road safety improvements.

“Councillor Smith’s Cromarty Firth ward stretches along the A9 from the Cromarty Bridge, passing Evanton, Alness and Invergordon to near Kildary, close to the Nigg roundabout.

“Councillor McGillivray's East Sutherland and Edderton ward takes in the A9 from the Dornoch Bridge to Evelix, Golspie, Brora and Helmsdale.

“Councillor Andrew Jarvie’s Wick and East Caithness ward includes Berriedale Braes, Dunbeath and Latheron before the A9 becomes the A99 to Lybster and Wick.

“Councillor Reiss’s Thurso and Northwest Caithness ward takes in the A9 after Spittal and to Georgemas Junction near Halkirk and all the way north to the UK mainland’s northernmost town of Thurso.”

A9 locations requiring "basic maintenance", as identified by the five Highland Alliance group members in their letter to Maree Todd:

A9 Scrabster

"Landslips have closed this essential route in recent years. The cause is unstable cliffs due partly to excessive drainage outflows. Urgent remedial and safety works are needed – see photo which depicts a drain that discharges on to the upper slopes. Could you push urgently for this work to be carried out adjacent to the A9, please?"

Scrabster: Landslips have been caused by 'unstable cliffs due partly to excessive drainage outflows'.
Scrabster: Landslips have been caused by 'unstable cliffs due partly to excessive drainage outflows'.

A9 Berriedale

"A fallen tree over a rusted and unmaintained snow gate at Berriedale. Why have the trees not been cut back? Why is this basic emergency provision so disgracefully neglected? Could you instruct for money to be released to resolve this neglect?

"There have been multiple reports over the winter of fallen trees at this location. It could cost a life eventually as it is causing closures which might include emergency vehicles, especially ambulances."

Berriedale: 'A fallen tree over a rusted and unmaintained snow gate. Why have the trees not been cut back?'
Berriedale: 'A fallen tree over a rusted and unmaintained snow gate. Why have the trees not been cut back?'

A9 Golspie area

"Every time there is heavy rain the road floods near Culgower and north of Dunrobin Castle. Proper culverts are required."

A9 near Foulis

"Flooding occurs during heavy rain, closing the entire road recently. As this route is so vital, much better prevention work is required."

A9 lay-by north of Cromarty Bridge

"This major lay-by regularly floods, causing closure."

Lay-by north of the Cromarty Bridge: 'This major lay-by regularly floods, causing closure.'
Lay-by north of the Cromarty Bridge: 'This major lay-by regularly floods, causing closure.'

A9 Black Isle

"Trees too close to the road."

A9 Inverness to Slochd

"Trees too close to the road, see Tomatin photo."

Inverness to Slochd: Trees 'too close to the road', as seen at Tomatin.
Inverness to Slochd: Trees 'too close to the road', as seen at Tomatin.

A9 Carrbridge

"As in many areas, vegetation on corners is restricting visibility and this has an adverse safety effect. A leading haulage contractor has specifically told us how this simple maintenance has been neglected for years."

Carrbridge area: 'As in many areas, vegetation on corners is restricting visibility and this has an adverse safety effect.'
Carrbridge area: 'As in many areas, vegetation on corners is restricting visibility and this has an adverse safety effect.'

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