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SNP will have 'more deserters than the Foreign Legion' if it fails on the A9

By Scott Maclennan

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Fergus Ewing is continuing to call for more action over A9 dualling. Picture: Callum Mackay
Fergus Ewing is continuing to call for more action over A9 dualling. Picture: Callum Mackay

A MOVE to shore up confidence in the SNP’s A9 and A96 dualling promises appears to have reopened wounds and even sparked a warning the party risks having more “more deserters than the Foreign Legion.”

The SNP party conference in Aberdeen this week saw branch members secure a resolution to “reaffirm” the SNP’s “unwavering commitment” to fully dualling the routes.

But the move appears to have provided a further opportunity for critics both inside and outwith the party to attack.

Highlanders 'want Tarmac – not talk'

Inverness and Nairn SNP MP Fergus Ewing, who did not attend the conference after being suspended by the SNP for a week last month for voting against party lines, said: “Highland people want action not political platform speeches. They want Tarmac – not talk. And above all plain honesty, not conference style spin.

“There’s no point in beating about any bush: We HAVE broken our promise to dual by 2025 – why pretend otherwise? That’s fooling no-one.

“So the Scottish Government must now make good. And I’ve spelt out how.”

Mr Ewing is till pushing for a full timescale on A9 dualling, with completion dates for each section, details about how work will be funded and how the procurement process will be improved.

He continued: “If the Scottish Government does all this then they have the chance of winning back supporters who have lost confidence.

“If they don’t then why should we expect to get that support? They would then have more deserters than the Foreign Legion.”

'Divisions being created where none exist'

Highlands and Islands list member for the SNP Emma Roddick spoke to the motion at conference, appearing to attack negative voices in her own party.

“Some try to use this issue to break up the Scottish Government, to do away with the Bute House agreement,” she said, referring to the partnership between the SNP and Greens at Holyrood.

“That is why the Tories get so chuffed when they can use SNP quotes to throw at us.”

Afterwards she emphasised the point and insisted there was no threat to the dualling programme.

“I can see divisions being created where none exist, by a small minority who don’t like the Bute House Agreement, trying to make out that the A9 is at risk because of the Greens,” she said.

“The dualling of the A9 and the Nairn Bypass is, of course, part of that agreement – wanting to get this done is a reason to keep that parliamentary majority going, not risk it.

“I wanted to make sure we sent the right message to the Highlands, that this remains the case and the SNP is behind the A9 dualling.”

Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston.
Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston.

Highland Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “As public anger grows, public trust in whether the SNP really are committed to completing these projects as promised has evaporated. That is not helped by the SNP’s deal with the Scottish Greens, a party which actively opposes road building.

“And local communities along the routes, and those who rely on them, will be asking what any new commitment – not by ministers but just by SNP members – actually means when the SNP has already broken promises made over a decade ago.

“The simple fact is this just looks like political grandstanding by SNP politicians worried about their jobs, and who – in too many cases – have sat on their hands and said nothing while their own SNP government has missed deadlines and misled the public on the progress of both projects.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “If the SNP had not taken their eye off the ball on these projects, then we would not be needing resolutions, parliamentary debates, petitions or newspaper articles on the topic. Alas here we are and very little has been done on what has been a manifesto commitment since 2011.

“Frankly the people of the Highlands and Islands deserve better.”

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