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A9 campaigner Laura Hansler slams Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘lame excuses’ for dualling delays


By Scott Maclennan

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Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the A9 inquiry.
Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the A9 inquiry.

Nicola Sturgeon’s testimony to the A9 dualling inquiry has been labelled “lame” by leading campaigner Laura Hansler who said: “She doesn’t care – she simply doesn’t care. They have got blood on their hands.”

Ms Sturgeon was facing the petitions committee inquiry earlier today where she blamed technical changes in public-private finances and “austerity, Brexit, the pandemic” for delays in completing the project.

Most of the should have been completed under the former First Minister’s administration - including John Swinney - and said she was “sorry” the programme was not delivered in time did not wash with Ms Hansler.

“She has not actually apologised for non-delivery, but there was a soft apology to the communities,” Ms Hansler said. “That she started her initial statement with Brexit, Covid, Ukraine, cost of living crisis when they simply were not on the horizon is inexcusable.

“She must have known – and Edward Mountain pushed her on it – that in 2018, even in 2017, under instruction from the cabinet secretary that it would not be delivered [in time] so she made a conscious choice not to share that information with the public.”

In MS Sturgeon’s evidence she said: “When the 2025 target was set, a target that was set in good faith, the question I go back to in my mind now is was there sufficient rigour and openness about how challenging a target that was.”

What Ms Hansler argues is that both Ms Sturgeon and her government were not open with the public when they “knew” in the 2017 to 2018 period that the work would not meet the deadline – but they “consciously” chose not to tell the public.

Ms Hansler said: “Again she used the excuse – contradicting Alex Neil’s evidence – when she said there was not the money and year on year there was money in the capital budget and they saved money on the Queensferry crossing – so again that is a lame excuse.

“The only positive I have taken from it, and maybe she didn’t want to be contradicting Alex Salmond, is that she supports the memorial.

“The evidence she gave was very, very bitty, I think we know that she knows and there are several of them who know that it was Humza Yousaf who dithered about and simply has not delivered.

“But it is this failure to share this information and being open and honest with the and give full disclosure to the public that they were pulling back on this project but for what reason? They haven’t given us a reason.

“That is really frustrating. She doesn’t care – she simply doesn’t care. They have got blood on their hands.”

Ms Hansler was not alone, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said exactly the same thing: “Nicola Sturgeon and successive Transport Ministers should have been more open and transparent with the public but they carried on for a further four or five years misleading people to believe that the A9 would be complete by 2025, even when it was very obvious that this timetable would not be met.

“With industry raising their concerns in 2018 over the 2025 deadline, they should have taken action. Had they effectively addressed it then, we would be much further forward in dualling the A9 than we are today.”



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