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BUILD THE BYPASS: 'Betrayal' of communities in Nairnshire and the north as A96 Corridor Review over one year late

By Federica Stefani

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by Lewis McBlane and Federica Stefani

Will 2024 see progress on Nairn bypass plans at last, after little movement in the year just gone?
Will 2024 see progress on Nairn bypass plans at last, after little movement in the year just gone?

A YEAR has passed since the Scottish Government said it would reveal its plan for the under-threat A96 dualling project.

The outcome of the A96 Corridor Review would be published “by the end of 2022”, according to the SNP and Green power-sharing deal which first announced the review – whose outcome after consultation could see the Scottish Government’s 2011 pledge to fully dual the road by 2030 scrapped.

Together with the announcement of the deadline for the A9 dualling being pushed forward of a decade to 2035, concerns have been raised on the impact this will have on communities in Nairnshire as plans for a bypass are still on hold.

Highland and Islands MSP Fergus Ewing – who will be meeting the transport minister in January to press for a timeline on the project –said a further delay was "shocking and disgraceful".

He said:"People in Nairn were promised their by-pass by by the First Minister himself. Such a further delay is a clear fundamental breach of that promise.

"Unless the Scottish Government deliver on their and the FMs promises they will simply have betrayed the good people of Nairn.

MSP Fergus Ewing. Picture: Callum Mackay
MSP Fergus Ewing. Picture: Callum Mackay

"As the local constituency MSP – such betrayal is for me utterly disgraceful and totally unacceptable. The delays for the two and a half years of this Session of Parliament have been accompanied by the same lame excuses.

"Dualling the A96 was in our SNP manifesto in the Holyrood 2021 election. The deal with the Greens was not. No one voted for them to run Scotland. Now they are being allowed by the First Minister to run Scotland down.

"People in the north and north east of Scotland won't forget these betrayals. I call on the First Minister to visit Nairn and come clean on what on earth is happening to his fine words and promises made time after time."

The dualling of the Inverness to Nairn section of the A96 already has ministerial consent, however any progress seems to have fallen by the wayside – it was November 2022 when Jenny Gilruth, then transport minister, told parliament that progress was expected within “weeks”.

In December, the Scottish Government admitted – in reply to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Moray Lib Dems – that no meetings had been held for more than a year with regards to an environmental impact report needed before any more work on the A96 can be progressed.

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland replied to saying: “We are continuing to progress the significant and intensive work required to prepare for publication of Made Orders, including the Compulsory Purchase Order, with a view to completing the statutory process as soon as possible.

“Delivery of the scheme can only commence if approved under the relevant statutory authorisation process and thereafter a timetable for progress can be set in line with available budgets.”

Commenting on the delay of the A96 corridor Review,, Highland Green MSP Ariane Burgess said: “The Bute House Agreement between Scottish Green MSPs and the Scottish Government set out various agreed principles regarding a transport enhancements programme on the A96 corridor that improves connectivity between surrounding towns, tackles congestion and addresses environmental issues.

Greens MSP Ariane Burgess.
Greens MSP Ariane Burgess.

“Safety should be the absolute priority when it comes to our approach to roads, along with a climate impact assessment on every proposal to ensure we are not just paving the way for more traffic congestion. We remain committed to improving the A96.

“Greens in government have pushed for record investment in active travel and public transport. The recently expanded scheme to scrap peak rail fares has reduced costs substantially for those commuting from Nairn and Elgin and there has been significant take up of the under-22s free bus travel in the region.

“What we won’t do is needlessly spend billions on road expansions that increase the traffic burden and drive up climate emissions, like the reckless UK Government has threatened to do in Scotland.”

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