Opposition to A9 upgrade over fear of battlefield loss

Campaigners against plans to upgrade the A9 at the site of the Battle of Killiecrankie have raised their concerns.

The Scottish Government is currently holding a public inquiry into its plans for the road, where Jacobite forces fought government troops in 1689.

The widening is part of a £3bn project to make the road between Perth and Inverness a dual carriageway.

The battle took place on 27 July 1689 between a Jacobite army under the command of John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount of Dundee, ‘Bonnie Dundee’, and a government army commanded by General Hugh Mackay with around 800 Jacobites being lost.

The existing A9 already runs through the Killiecrankie Battlefield and therefore any widening will have some impact on the site.

The 1745 Association has sent an objection, with the association being a voluntary association established in 1946 to study the Jacobite period, record and preserve the memory of those who participated in it, and endeavour to safeguard the Jacobite heritage.

Association chairman Michael Nevin said: ‘We are respectfully asking the Reporter to consider all feasible options for the A9, not just those put forward by Transport for Scotland, in order to avoid irreparable and irreversible damage to one of Scotland’s most important battlefield sites/

‘As a professional economist, I seriously question whether a rigorous cost-benefit analysis would support the dualling of the A9 at Killiecrankie at all. Do we really want to encourage more cars, travelling ever-increasing speeds, on our our arterial roads?

‘Surely the priority of an environmentally responsible transport policy should be to encourage greater use of rail and bus services, combined with regulating road traffic to travel at steady and sustainable speeds and so minimise the damaging effect that vehicle emissions are having on global warming.’

Mr Nevin suggests that the optimal strategy for the A9 would involve maintaining the existing single carriageway at the Pass of Killiecrankie, combined with selective dualling on stretches before and after enabling motorists to overtake slower moving vehicles safely.

He added: ‘At Killiecrankie, a far more cost-effective option would involve maintaining the existing single carriageway, adding a lay-by together and enhancing battlefield interpretation to encourage passing travellers by bus, coach and car to pause and reflect on an important moment in Scottish history.’

The 1745 Association formally wrote to the Director of Major Transport Infrastructure Projects (MTRIPS) of Transport Scotland on January 20th 2018 setting out its objections to their proposals.

Mr Nevin added: ‘We reiterate our objections today as the Enquiry commences. TfL’s cosmetic changes to their original proposals do nothing to allay our concerns. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Scottish Battlefields Trust, the local community group Soldiers of Killiecrankie, our friends in The Fifteen (the Northumbrian Jacobite Society) and many others who share our fundamental concerns about these proposals. I am confident that the Reporter will give full and detailed consideration to all options, and we wish him well in his important Enquiry.’

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of the sensitivities around what is an important battlefield, and site of historical and cultural significance, which is why we have been engaging extensively with the local community and key stakeholders since 2012.

‘Having published draft Orders for the Killiecrankie to Glen Garry scheme in November 2017, we made a number of design refinements to reduce land take on the battlefield site following feedback from Historic Environment Scotland and the local community.

‘We must observe our statutory obligations and therefore approached the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division to arrange a Public Local Inquiry (PLI) which is starting today. As for all our road schemes, this is the appropriate forum for considering objections received but not withdrawn.

‘Ultimately, following detailed consideration of all objections made but not withdrawn, the Reporter will provide recommendations to the Scottish Ministers for their determination.

‘We are working hard to deliver our ambitious programme to dual the A9 which when complete will bring many benefits to local communities, businesses, visitors and road users living, travelling and working along the route. These include reduced journey times, improved journey time reliability and, crucially, improve road safety for all users.’

Scottish Ministers are the decision makers in this process and will ultimately make a decision whether or not to proceed with a scheme after they have considered the recommendations made by the Reporter as part of the inquiry process.