Our journey from somewhere off the coast of Africa had been tiring, but the final stretch between Edinburgh and Aberdeen seemed strangely relaxing.
It would take 20 hours in total to reach our front door after the holiday ended. But this bit was the most tranquil.
I think it was due to the smooth open road ahead; dualling makes everything so pleasant and relaxing.
I also took a spin along the Aberdeen bypass from start to finish. What a pleasure this was: fast and uncluttered by traffic, with magnificent scenery across the Dee and Don to the west of Aberdeen thrown in. It felt safe.
I suspect many SNP bigwigs also enjoyed the same experience of being transported from the south towards Aberdeen – in their chauffeur-driven limos, or motorhomes, or whatever they use these days – for their autumn summit at the P&J Live arena, which is situated conveniently just off the bypass.
The rickety SNP bandwagon moved on a few days ago, as their facade of comradely affection ended.
But it wouldn’t have been such an amicable motoring experience if the event was in Inverness. They would have been squeezed like sardines into mostly single lanes on the infamous A9 and A96 roads, from Perth and Aberdeen respectively.
The routes’ desperate dualling needs have been woefully ignored and delayed by the SNP for more than decade. It’s among the issues that led to veteran SNP MSP Fergus Ewing’s disillusion with the party and suspension for speaking out.
But, as many of us are aware, Mr Ewing was only following one of the cherished principles of the party he used to love. He probably still does; it’s just poor leadership decisions and their extreme Green political bedmates which he detests.
The principle being that members are entitled to speak out without fear about policies which damage their constituents. The A9 and A96 debacles fall into this category; Ewing believes Nicola Sturgeon’s fingerprints are all over it.
SNP saw Aberdeen bypass through – after Labour laid the groundwork
Anger with the Scottish Government about these roads is clear to see in the Highland and north-east communities most affected by substandard transport links.
Aberdeen bypass construction was actually seen through by the SNP, in fairness. But it must be remembered that it was Labour First Minister Jack McConnell who approved the project in the first place in 2003. So, it was a firm commitment already on Alex Salmond’s desk when he swept to power.
He stuck with it, though. It’s just the rest of the roads agenda for the north and north-east which was tossed into a lay-by and disintegrated like tiny pieces of a jigsaw.
The A9 and A96 scandal leaves one thinking that, in modern Scotland, some people are more equal than others
Chronic neglect of this nature naturally leads people to claim that the Highlands and Grampian are treated as second class by the so-called political elite. Elite in name only, as the word is usually applied to people at the top of their game. It cannot be used to describe the Scottish Government’s record in office.
The A9 and A96 scandal leaves one thinking that, in modern Scotland, some people are more equal than others.
I often wondered if I’d survive A96 commute
I remember the ecstasy which greeted McConnell’s announcement about the bypass. At last, Aberdeen would escape the shackles of congestion on narrow roads, boosting the economy and people’s daily lives.
At the time, I was commuting on a regular basis between Aberdeen and Inverness, along the A96. It was a hair-raising experience due to sparse dualling.
Tiredness, poor judgment and frustration resulted in reckless, high-speed overtaking manoeuvres and awful crash statistics.
It has to be noted that it is often human error which is actually to blame for these deaths. Yet, road conditions play a major part in poor driving behaviour and exacerbating risks. I often wondered if I would make it back in one piece whenever I set off.
Is new SNP promise worth the paper its written on?
It reminds me of a commemorative plaque on a railway line between Liverpool and Manchester, where MP William Huskisson was killed by a locomotive during its inauguration almost 100 years ago. The tribute to him includes a quote from an ancient prayer to sum up the random nature of such tragedy: “In the midst of life there is death”.
People using the A9 and A96 must think like this every day as they venture out, due to the SNP’s shocking neglect over making the roads safer.
When I asked a top SNP spin doctor a few years ago if his party could rule indefinitely, he conceded that a day of reckoning would inevitably come over its domestic record
North-east activists forced the SNP leadership to confront their abject failings in the dying hours of the conference and make a new pledge on dualling – but was it worth the paper it was written on?
When I asked a top SNP spin doctor a few years ago if his party could rule indefinitely, he conceded that a day of reckoning would inevitably come over its domestic record. By that yardstick, they must be on the road to nowhere over dualling if they don’t deliver this time.
David Knight is the long-serving former deputy editor of The Press and Journal