Published: 06/09/2017 17:22 - Updated: 06/09/2017 17:25

A9 to become Scotland's first electric highway

Written byEmma Crichton

 

Nicola Sturgeon has made A9 pledge
Nicola Sturgeon has made A9 pledge
 

 

The north’s main link to the Central Belt will become the first fully "electric enabled" highway in Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be phased out in Scotland by 2032 - eight years ahead of the UK Government’s pledge.

A pillar of the plan will be to include charging points up and down the A9, Scotland’s longest road.

The Strathy looks at the proposal as well as other bills in announced in this year’s programme of government.

Climate change

A new bill setting out ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions was widely welcomed during the first week back at Holyrood following the summer recess.

The A9, stretching from Perth to Scrabster, will become a "electric enabled highway", the first in Scotland to be fully equipped with charging points for electric vehicles, as part of wider plans to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans in the next 15 years.

Nicola Sturgeon said: "Over the next few months we will set out detailed plans to massively expand the number of electric charging points in rural, urban and domestic settings.

"We will make the A9, already a major infrastructure project, Scotland’s first fully electric-enabled highway. This is an exciting challenge and one that I hope all members and the country will get behind.

"It sends a message, we look to the world’s future with excitement, we welcome ambition and we will lead that ambition."

Although some concerns were raised about the cost of charge points and the number necessary, the pan was widely welcomed by north MSPs.

Gail Ross, SNP member for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: "I am delighted with the content of the programme for government, in particular I very much welcome the commitment that the A9 will be fully enabled for electric and low emissions vehicles."

"I will also advocate for the NC500 to be given the infrastructure to support ultra-low emissions vehicles.

"Infrastructure will need to be in place and I relish the opportunity to work with businesses in the community to make sure they have access to electric and ultra-low emission vehicles."

This was backed up by Kate Forbes, who represents Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, who welcomed further investment in tandem with the dualling of the A9.

"While all eyes have been on the Queensferry Crossing, the first phase of the £3 billion dualling project of the A9 is about to open in my constituency.

"We have waited years for that but it is great news for the Highlands that the Scottish Government will not rest on its laurels but will go even further and make the A9 the first fully electric-enabled highway."

Broadband delivery

Ms Sturgeon has pledged to carry forward the next phase of the commitment to provide next generation broadband to everywhere in Scotland by 2020.

The First Minister described the work as "transformational" to the rural economy but failed to convince Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, who questioned the timescale of the projects.

Ms Grant said: "I cant over estimate the urgency of need - people are being left behind, not able to access services and jobs, communicate with family or enjoy digital media.

"The roll out wont begin until 2018, yet they [the SNP] have been in government for 10 years. There are still have vast swathes of Scot to cover where there are geographical challenges and where it will be the hardest to set up. Do they really believe they will cover them all in two years?

"This government needs to work with digitally excluded communities now, rather than telling them to wait.

"Don’t make a promise you can’t live up to, that is simply unfair."

But SNP MSP Kate Forbes, who represents Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, welcomed the commitment, adding: "It will be immensely welcome that the First Minister has just put rural Scotland right at the front of the queue in our digital revolution, meaning our most remote communities will be among the very first to reap the benefits of comprehensive, fast, fibre broadband coverage."

Public sector pay cap

THE one per cent cap on public sector pay rises will be scrapped next year, the First Minister confirmed.

It formed part of a UK-wide limit, imposed since 2013 after a two-year pay freeze but now Nicola Sturgeon has said future rises will be based on the cost of living.

This comes a week after Unison union Highland healthcare secretary Janette McQuiston, criticised the cap at the NHS Highland annual public review in Aviemore.

Unison Highland represents around 3000 people and the vast majority are public sector employees.

Now Ms McQuiston is ""delighted" the cap has been lifted but said there is still a lot to do.

She said: "We are delighted that the Scottish Government has scrapped the cap but there is still a lot of hard work to be done.

"We need to get round the table and agree what a fair and reasonable pay rise would be.

"In real terms salaries have fallen by 17 per cent since 2010 but it will be for the Unison negotiating committee to decide what kind of rise they will propose."

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