A9 stands as an unfinished monument to the SNP's ineptitude and lack of purpose – Scotsman comment

Nicola Sturgeon's caveated apology can’t hide the lack of delivery on what should have been a government priority

Ahead of the 2021 Holyrood election, Nicola Sturgeon shockingly admitted her government had taken its “eye off the ball” over rising drug deaths. Now we have a new admission from the former First Minister as she apologised for the failure to dual the A9 and expressed her “deep regret” at the number of people who have lost their lives on the road.

The SNP first announced it would dual this arterial transport route in 2007. It was supposed to be completed by 2025, but won’t be. Instead, the latest supposed completion date is 2035.

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Asked by nationalist MSP Fergus Ewing whether she would apologise to people in the Highlands, Sturgeon said: “I am sorry we haven’t dualled the road by 2025. I regret that, and I think people in the Highlands have every right to feel the way they do... The loss of life is a matter of deep regret for everyone.”

Nicola Sturgeon has apologised for failing to complete the dualling of the A9 while insisting circumstances had got in the way (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Nicola Sturgeon has apologised for failing to complete the dualling of the A9 while insisting circumstances had got in the way (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon has apologised for failing to complete the dualling of the A9 while insisting circumstances had got in the way (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

However, she stressed she was not saying “sorry we messed up”, but apologising because circumstances, “many beyond our control”, had got in the way. “Were we as candid with the public at just how challenging it would be to meet that target?" she wondered.

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NHS crisis began before Covid

The echoes of the recent SNP excuses over Scotland’s ditched climate target and the Ferguson Marine ferries fiasco are hard to ignore. But the lack of good government that these problems betray can also be seen in the NHS crisis.

The SNP likes to blame Covid for the health service’s woes, but there were serious staffing shortages long before the pandemic hit. As Health Secretary in 2012, Sturgeon cut student nurse places by 300 and by 2018 the number of nurse and midwife vacancies had risen by more than 350 per cent.

When times are good, bad government can sometimes be overlooked. Tougher times have helped expose the SNP’s ineptitude and lack of purpose – beyond campaigning for independence – as well as the damaging effect this has had on the country. The A9 is a scandal in of itself but also a monument to the wider malaise that has blighted Scotland and its government for far too long.

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