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Scottish cabinet knew for at least 5 years A9 deadline was ‘unachievable’

By Scott Maclennan

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The Scottish Government has known for years the A9 Dualling scheme would not be finished by 2025.
The Scottish Government has known for years the A9 Dualling scheme would not be finished by 2025.

The Scottish Government has known for years that the deadline for dualling the A9 was unachievable, according to recently released cabinet papers to the petitions committee inquiry into the debacle.

In 2018, the Scottish Government under Nicola Sturgeon was looking for privately financed options as a November 2018 Cabinet paper states that “the forward capital plan assumes one further capital funded A9 project after Luncarty-Birnam.”

It then goes on to say that it will take time “to develop and procure a private financed solution for the remainder of A9 programme,” so “the revised approach to delivery will mean the 2025 timescale is not achievable.”

Cabinet secretary for transport infrastructure and connectivity Michael Matheson was told by officials responding to an August 2018 request about “possible private financing options for the A9 programme” that the “2025 target date would be unachievable”.

An extract from Covid-19 briefing for the cabinet secretary for transport infrastructure and connectivity on May 6, 2020 stated that “…depending on the duration of Covid19 restrictions and measures being enforced, the commitment to complete the dualling by 2025 is anticipated to become increasingly more challenging and unlikely to be achievable”.

A briefing for Mr Matheson on August 11 the same year before a cabinet meeting was even more explicit. The “speaking notes” state: “...The measures taken however include changes in respect of some long-standing political commitments in relation to road improvement projects that will prevent us from completion of dualling the A9 by 2025.”

Then in a December 2021 discussion paper that was produced by officials for the cabinet secretaries for finance and economy, and net zero energy and transport indicated that the earliest completion dates for private finance would be 2032.

The earliest completion date for a traditional capital financed option was 2034 and that “both dates were subject to the availability of funding” – which rocketed from the £3 billion.

Total costs over a 30-year period for the privately financed option would be £7.179 billion or for the traditional capital finance option £4.532 billion.

It also emerged that Scottish Ministers never once “formally agreed a mechanism to procure the construction” of eight of the 11 sections of the A9 programme.

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