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First Minister's failure to commit to pledge to finish dualling A9 by 2025 sparks angry response from Highland MSP who claims delays are risking lives and investment

By Scott Maclennan

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A9 dualling
A9 dualling

Doubts about the future of the dualling of A9 and A96 are mounting after the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon refused to deny the projects could be delayed after being questioned by Highland MSP Jamie Halcro-Johnston.

Each project is budgeted at £3 billion each and aim upgrade the roads between Inverness and Perth and Inverness and Aberdeen.

Both are seen as vital not just for the Highland economy but also for the safety of road users and delay, far less cancellation, would spell disaster for investment.

Suspicions were sparked when the latest iteration of the plans omitted the timescales for delivery – originally they were 2025 for A9 and 2030 for the A96 – nor were the projects included in the Strategic Transport Projects Review.

Now for the second time this month the Scottish Government has refused to confirm whether the projects have been delayed, shelved or even cancelled.

Earlier Transport Scotland was vague on on how the project would progress saying it needed time to "take stock."

Currently, just one of 11 sections has been completed with a second near Perth due to be finished soon but little to no work has been done on any of the other areas.

Mr Halcro-Johnston asked the First Minister if she would reassure people in the Highlands that the Scottish Government remained "committed to completing both projects in full and within the original target time scales" – but she refused.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Clearly, as is the case on almost every facet of life right now, Covid has had an impact on all of this and we will need to consider exactly what that impact will be going forward.

"But I have set out the significant progress particularly on the A9 and where the A96 plans are and we'll continue to progress these as quickly as possible.”

Mr Halcro Johnston said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s refusal to commit to her own government’s pledges on the A9 and A96 is potentially devastating news for my region.

“The question was simple – would she commit to work being completed on deadline and in full. The answer should have been a simple ‘yes’.

"But she wasn’t prepared to give that commitment. Her evasive answers cannot be left to stand.

"Nicola Sturgeon has to make clear – without any attempt to dissemble – whether or not the SNP stand by their commitments to the people of the Highlands and Islands to deliver this vital projects on time and in full.

“Local people across the Highlands and Islands are becoming ever more infuriated by the deteriorating state of the local trunk road network, and any further delay in upgrading these two key projects risks costing investment, livelihoods and, worst of all, lives.”

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