MSP welcomes Naver Bridge tendering

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has welcomed news that the first stage of the tender process to replace the existing Naver Bridge in north-west Sutherland is expected to start imminently.

Mrs Grant made representation to Highland Council earlier this year, highlighting the concerns the community brought to her about the perilous condition of the existing bridge.

She said “I am pleased that things are now moving forward, no doubt as a result of the concerns that members of the community, and the Bettyhill, Altnaharra and Strathnaver Community Council, raised.

“I will be keeping an eye on how things progress and very much hope that work on the new bridge will begin in early summer next year as reported.”

Warning signs to be installed at Telford Street and Shore Street roundabouts

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has been advised by Transport Scotland that temporary warning signs are being erected on the trunk road approaches to the pedestrian crossings at both sides of the Friars Bridge in Inverness, with permanent warning signs and improvement to existing markings also being implemented in the new year.

This follows the MSP’s representation to the Scottish Government about the danger to pedestrians at the Telford Street roundabout where many users think the traffic lights at the Aldi store are too close to the roundabout.

Rhoda Grant said “I am pleased that the concerns I have raised on behalf of constituents have been heard and I hope the new warning signs, when in place, will go some way to reducing the risk to pedestrians and cyclists in these areas.”

Mrs Grant has been advised that the design of permanent warning signs and improvements to the existing road markings are currently ongoing and Amey hopes to implement these measures early in the new year, subject to the delivery of materials and any potential weather impacts.

Transport Scotland advise that they have instructed Amey to accelerate these works where possible, and that the temporary warning signs will remain in place until the permanent improvement works have been completed.

Mrs Grant said “It’s not clear yet exactly what the design for the permanent signage and improved road markings will be, and whether these will be enough, but it’s a start and I will be keeping in touch with Transport Scotland about this.”

Inverness Courier Wins Top National Award for its Dual The A9 Campaign

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating the Inverness Courier on winning News Media Association’s Making a Difference award 2023 for its Dual The A9 campaign.

Rhoda Grant said “The Courier has done a fantastic job in raising awareness of the desperate need to dual the A9.

“The Scottish Government promised the road would be dualled by 2025 and then promptly kicked it into the long grass. Meanwhile families continue to be left devastated by the deaths of loved ones who have lost their lives on this road.

Mrs Grant concluded “The Inverness Courier is ensuring the voices of the people in the Highlands and Islands is being heard and I wholeheartedly congratulate everyone involved in continuing to bring this to the government who must now make this their top priority.”

The text of Mrs Grant’s motion is below:-

Motion Number: S6M-11098
Lodged By: Rhoda Grant
Date Lodged: 03/11/2023

Title: Inverness Courier Wins Top National Award for its Dual The A9 Campaign

Motion Text:

That the Parliament congratulates The Inverness Courier on winning the News Media Association (NMA) Making a Difference award 2023 for its Dual The A9 campaign; notes that the NMA acknowledged the campaign’s viral front page, which it understands gained over a million views; considers that the campaign is well-informed and engaging, and that it effectively highlights the need for the road to be dualled; notes that, as part of the campaign, the team at The Inverness Courier organised a leadership debate at which the issue of the A9 was raised, organised an A9 Crisis Summit in Inverness, and has provided a dedicated section on its website; acknowledges that the campaign has been hailed by the NMA as an exemplary instance of the essential role that journalism plays in society, in shining a light on such an important cause; commends the team members at The Inverness Courier, who, it understands, have vowed to continue the campaign until the A9 is dualled, and congratulates everyone involved for their work in keeping this issue in the spotlight.

Royal National Mòd & Scottish Labour Gaelic Policy

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating all the competitors from throughout the Highlands and Islands who won their categories in this year’s Royal National Mòd which was held in Paisley between 13 and 21 October.

The MSP has also recognised the efforts of those involved in the organisation of the event and has acknowledged the dedication of everyone taking part in the annual competition.

Scottish Labour launched its Gaelic Policy at this year’s event and hopes the document entitled “An Economic Plan for a Living Language” will provide the platform for a new perspective on ensuring the survival of the Gaelic language and culture by, first and foremost, revitalising the economy of Gaelic-speaking areas.

Rhoda Grant, said “I congratulate the academics at the University of the Highlands and Islands whose research demonstrates a sharp decline in the number of Gaelic speakers in the last 30 years, particularly amongst young people.

“We need to prevent any further decline, and indeed promote the language and culture more if we are to ensure its survival.”

Mrs Grant continued “We must revitalise the economy of Gaelic-speaking areas in the Highlands and Islands. Our policy also acknowledges that the cultural sector is a key employer in the Gaelic-speaking community with radio and TV in particular creating a number of jobs in the Highlands and Islands.

“We need to equip these areas with the tools they need to thrive and expand. This includes ensuring there is good quality housing available not only to stop the decline, but to encourage others to move to these areas to help them to thrive. We need to vastly improve our ferry network to sustain and grow our businesses and to allow the tourist market to flourish and savour our wonderful Gaelic culture. We need to provide our young people with the skills to keep them at home instead of forcing them to leave.

“As Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, I am involved in land reform and in agricultural and crofting policy which will all impact the economies and future of our Gaelic speaking communities and, with this document, Scottish Labour has provided the framework to kick start these much needed changes to ensure our world renowned Gaelic culture and language survive.”

Crofting Commission Succession Drop in Event

I am pleased to help the Crofting Commission publicise their next drop-in event on Monday 6th November, at Lochinver Village Hall, 5-8pm. For more info, contact or visit

MSP asking questions on Friar’s Bridge traffic lights

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is ‘asking questions’ about the location of the traffic lights outside the Aldi store on Friar’s Bridge.

Having been contacted by a constituent about concerns that the lights were too close to the Telford Street roundabout, former Labour MSP, David Stewart, raised the matter with the Scottish Government in 2018/2019 however the onset of Covid in early 2020 stalled any progress and Mr Stewart retired in 2021.

Picking up the baton, Mrs Grant said “There are arguments for not moving the lights beyond the Aldi junction, however what concerned residents want to see are the lights moved back slightly, to just before the entrance to the Aldi supermarket. This would alleviate the concerns that drivers are focussing on clearing the roundabout while still leaving the crossing within an acceptable distance for people to walk to.”

Chasing up the matter with Transport Scotland earlier this year, Mrs Grant was told that “The existing pedestrian crossing locations between Longman Road Roundabout and Telford Street Roundabout will be reviewed as part of an Active Travel Scheme for improved pedestrian and cycling facilities along this section of the A82. It is programmed to investigate and design this scheme in 2023/24, with construction in the following years. Construction will be dependent upon available budgets and schemes need prioritised on merit against other proposed Active Travel measures.”

Mrs Grant contacted Transport Scotland again this month asking an update on this and if the investigation and design on the scheme has taken place or, if not, when it was expected that this will take place within the 2023/24 timeframe previously specified.

The MSP was told by Transport Scotland that “The active travel scheme between Longman Road Roundabout and Telford Street Roundabout is currently on hold as the Highland Bus Partnership are undertaking work to look at potential bus priority and active travel on the A82 Longman Road as well as supporting mobility hubs, or park and rides, using funding from Transport Scotland’s Bus Partnership Fund.” Transport Scotland further advised that since they last wrote to the MSP, “the extent of proposals being looked at have been refined and do not extend as far as the junction of concern” but “Transport Scotland has instructed BEAR to investigate and recommend what measures can be implemented in the short-term to alleviate the concerns”.

Rhoda Grant continued “I understand that feedback from a public exhibition held by Transport Scotland in the Cameron Youth Centre on 30 August 2018, highlighted that some of the 100+ people who attended the exhibition also voiced concerns about the closeness of the lights to the roundabout. The plan then was to include consideration of relocating the controlled crossing or upgrading the path underneath Friar’s Bridge and I will be keeping a close eye on the investigations that have been promised to make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Sarwar: Fire service cuts are “putting lives at risk”

Commenting after First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (seen here supporting the Fire Brigades Union Rally outside the Scottish Parliament this morning) said “Fire service cuts are putting lives at risk but the First Minister is burying his head in the sand.

“The Fire Service budget is set by this Government and it has fallen by 22% in real terms over the past decade, putting 780 firefighter posts are at risk.

“This would have an impact on response times and when fighting a fire, every second counts.

“In the past ten years hundreds of fire fighters have been lost.

“Now, a dozen appliances are being removed and the First Minister is ignoring warnings that his Government is putting lives at risk.

“When the single fire service was created the SNP said that it would, and I quote, not result in ‘cutting front line services’.

“It’s clear now that was either SNP spin or SNP incompetence.

“The First Minister must listen to firefighters on the ground about how to keep people safe.”


Firestorm: A report into the future of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Blistering evidence on A9 from former Cabinet Secretary

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has described the evidence given to the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee this morning by the former Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil, as ‘blistering’.

Mr Neil, who was appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment after the 2011 election, gave an overview of why they took the decision in 2011 to dual the A9 by 2025 and to upgrade the A96 by 2030 and advised how he asked Transport Scotland Officials to give him a realistic date of when the A9 could be dualled and was given the date of 2025.

He had responsibility for the National Infrastructure Investment Plan due for update later in 2011 and with regards to the roads budget, he advised that he looked at ways in which the SNP’s Manifesto commitments of 2007 and 2011 to dual the A9 and upgrade the A96 could be implemented.

The former Cabinet Secretary advised that he set a strategic objective for Transport Scotland and for the (Scottish) Government that at the earliest possible opportunity they should link the 7 cities in Scotland (at the time) either by dual carriageway or motorway. He asked officials to come up with plan to achieve that objective and asked for the earliest date the A9 could be dualled taking into account the physical and financial considerations of such a project including purchase of land etc. Mr Neil advised that he asked officials to be “realistic but ambitious”.

Due to the preparatory works that would be needed including the acquisition of land etc, they looked at the period from 2015 – 2030 for construction works to be done. Mr Neil advised that it was estimated that there was £14.7billion of capital funding unallocated at that time. He said it was a working assumption that the cost to dual the A9 and A96 was £30million a mile and it would take £6bIllion between the A9 and the A96 – 40% of the budget that was available at that time.

Rhoda Grant said “The former Cabinet Secretary emphasised that Transport Scotland officials assured him that, both physically and financially, it was perfectly feasible to dual the A9 between Inverness and Perth by 2025 and to upgrade the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030.

 “He stressed that road safety was a major consideration in the decision and he cited the 335 fatalities since 1979 and another 13 last year.”

Mr Neil has access to papers in relation to the roads during his period as Cabinet Secretary and on 28 May 2012, at his request, he received a detailed memo from a senior official at Transport Scotland which details the timescales for completion section by section. He strongly suggested the Committee demands access to this paperwork.

Mr Neil said he was extremely disappointed at the delays which is damaging to the Scottish economy and far more damaging to the Highlands and Islands that this well thought out project has not been completed, let alone completed on time.

Mrs Grant continued “When it was suggested to the former Cabinet Secretary that “something happened” and he was asked if there was resistance to the principle underpinning the decision from Transport Scotland or elsewhere Mr Neil emphasised that he asked officials for the date of when it could be done and the Finance Department, under John Swinney, confirmed the money would be there. He advised that there was no question in his mind that it was official advice that it could be done within the timescales specified.”

“Alex Neil said that while the pandemic could allow for a delay of a year or 18 months, up until then there was, in his view, “no excuse for having missed these deadlines.”

Mr Neil advised that he was reshuffled to Heath in September 2012 and Nicola Sturgeon took over the brief. He advised that one of the reasons he asked for a specific programme for each section was that he knows how bureaucracy works and you have to sometimes “nail down your advisors” to make sure there is no wriggleroom for excuses and delay.

Rhoda Grant continued “For Alex Neil to say on record that he thinks “there was a mentality, and it might still be there, that the Highlands and Islands was seen by some people maybe as peripheral.” is a shocking indictment on this government.”

 He advised that one of the reasons Inverness has become one of the fastest growing cities in Europe is because people were expecting the connections would be there and if the dualling had been nearing completion it would have been growing even faster. He stated that the A82 badly needs upgraded and connectivity between Glasgow and Oban needs to be looked at to open up Argyll. The former Cabinet Secretary said “The lack of ambition is mindnumbing quite frankly.”

Mr Neil said he double checked that what they were planning was well within the capital programme and had it been built on time, the costs for the A9 would probably only have been 2/3 of the projected £3billion budget but “because we’ve stalled, because we’ve delayed, because we’ve put it on the back burner, because we’ve betrayed our promise to the people of the Highlands and Islands, and Scotland, because this is important for Scotland as well as the Highlands and Islands because of all that when we eventually get to do it it’s probably going to cost up to £1billion more that it need have done because of these delays.”

Mrs Grant concluded “Alex Neil has laid bare his blistering evidence and his extreme disappointment at the delays and the lack of ambition displayed by this government. That disappointment is echoed throughout the Highlands and Islands and the Scottish Government must now make the dualling of this road their absolute top priority.”

Macmillan Coffee Morning

I was pleased to support the Macmillan’s Coffee Morning held by Jackie Baillie MSP in Parliament this week helping keep Macmillan’s vital services running supporting people living with cancer.

Supporting The Yard

I was delighted to join with colleagues in supporting The Yard when they visited the Parliament this week. The Yard support disabled children and young people (aged 0-25), and their families, through adventure play, providing opportunities for fun, friendship and a sense of belonging.