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A9 Holyrood committee to hear from Alex Salmond

By Scott Maclennan

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Former First Minister and now Alba Party leader Alex Salmond is set to appear before Holyrood’s petitions committee.Picture: David Porter
Former First Minister and now Alba Party leader Alex Salmond is set to appear before Holyrood’s petitions committee.Picture: David Porter

Alex Salmond is set to give evidence to the A9 dualling inquiry at Holyrood tomorrow.

The former SNP leader and former First Minister’s appearance may cause something of a headache for the man stepping into both posts, John Swinney, as the first suggestion that the previous A9 dualling deadline of 2025 could not be met came to him in 2017.

An email to Mr Swinney from the then cabinet secretary for the economy, Keith Brown, stated that “further slippage beyond April would increase the risk of not achieving 2025.”

Trying to anticipate what Mr Salmond, now leader of the Alba party, might wish to tell the inquiry tomorrow, it might be useful to remember his words to a gathering of his new political base held in Inverness towards the end of March.

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Mr Salmond told the audience then: “The job of the Scottish Government is to provide the infrastructure required to allow the Highlands and Islands to flourish, whether it be roads in the mainland, ferries to the islands or electronic infrastructure everywhere.

“As First Minister, I demonstrated that commitment by holding cabinet meetings in Inverness, Caithness, Inveraray, Moray and the Northern and Western Isles.

“Each of these meetings committed promises to north communities and indeed many were honoured, like the University of the Highlands and Islands.

“However, over the last 10 years the SNP government has effectively turned its back on the Highlands, much to the frustration of outstanding local representatives such as Fergus Ewing MSP (Inverness and Nairn) and Angus Brendan MacNeil MP (Na h-Eileanan an Iar).

“I made a firm commitment to complete the dualling of the A9 to Inverness by 2025 at a historic cabinet meeting in Inverness Town House in 2008.

“It was ready to roll by May 2012 but was subsequently downgraded in the capital plans.”

He added: “I can tell you that if I had remained as First Minister the A9 would have been finished.”

In his column in today’s Inverness Courier, Mr Ewing said he wants to find out “what went wrong” with the dualling project, flagging up that another former First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is due to appear before the petitions committee at the end of this month.

He also makes clear he will now press for action on another key Highland dualling project – that of the A96: “There is now an outline plan for the A9 dualling but no information regards the first section of the A96 dualling project.

“Three years into this session of parliament, and we are still waiting. This is not good enough.”

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