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Highland MSP calls for 'clear commitments' on A9 dualling

By Scott Maclennan

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MSP Fergus Ewing believes immediate progress can be made on four sections of the A9. Picture: Callum Mackay
MSP Fergus Ewing believes immediate progress can be made on four sections of the A9. Picture: Callum Mackay

A Highland MSP has written to the transport minister ahead of the Scottish Government’s much-heralded autumn statement on A9 dualling, calling for immediate action on four sections.

Fergus Ewing expressed his concern to Fiona Hyslop that action must be taken to address the “depth of the scepticism” across the region about the project being realised.

The Inverness and Nairn SNP MSP wants the Tay Crossing-Ballinluig; Ballinluig-Killiecrankie; Glen Garry-Dalwhinnie; and Dalwhinnie-Crubenmore sections, totalling 21 miles of road, moved immediately to tender.

He wrote to Ms Hyslop: “Such is the depth of the scepticism in the Highlands now as a result of the broken Scottish Government serial promises to deliver the project by 2025, it is absolutely essential, in my view, that in the announcement, there must be a positive clear announcement that the four sections of the road which have had ‘made orders’ issued, in July and November 2021, are now going into procurement.”

Mr Ewing argues the SNP faces a very real credibility test amid the “life and death” urgency of finishing the Inverness-Perth dualling programme – which the government admitted earlier this year was unachievable by its original 2025 deadline – because, at the current rate, delays are mounting despite earlier promises.

He added: “I remind you that your predecessor but one, Jenny Gilruth, promised that the whole procurement process would be concluded and a decision be made this year.

“Instead, I learn from business that no decision is now expected until next July at the earliest: a delay of an extra seven months. This is another serious setback and it is unfortunate that this information about slippage was not shared voluntarily with parliament.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf issued a “cast-iron” promise to dual the A9 and made further assurances during the SNP leadership debate hosted by sister title The Inverness Courier in March – a month after the government conceded it would miss the dualling target.

He added: “Whatever mode is used, the vital element is that your statement DOES make a cast iron commitment to go to procurement on all four sections and to specify when that will happen in each case.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I am NOT suggesting that that means all four must be done at the same time, as, for practical reasons, that may not be possible as it would mean the complete closure of the A9.

“However, unlike in the past, where only one section was done at a time, there is no reason why there could not be, for example, two sections going to procurement at a time. What is important is that clear time commitments are given as to when the work will be carried out for each one of the four sections.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We remain committed to dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness and work is continuing across the route. We expect to update parliament on the programme for completing the remaining sections this autumn.”

In August far north MP Jamie Stone joined 18 other politicians in signing a pledge to get the work on the A9 undertaken and criticised the delays in getting the project completed. However he also wanted improvement work extended.

“In Sutherland and Caithness, major straightening work should be undertaken at Cambusavie and at the road north of Berriedale,” he said.

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