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Deputy First Minister is unable to say when the Inverness-Nairn dualling will be completed

By Scott Maclennan

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MSP Fergus Ewing did not appear convinced by Deputy First Minister Shona Robison's response.
MSP Fergus Ewing did not appear convinced by Deputy First Minister Shona Robison's response.

The deputy First Minister Shona Robison came under pressure today to reveal when the Inverness-Auldearn dualling would be completed and when the delayed review into the dualling of the A96 would finally be revealed – but offered no answer.

North East Scotland MSP Liam Kerr asked “when the Scottish Government will publish the results of the A96 Corridor Review?” while Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing sought answers on the dualling in his constituency.

Ms Robison advised that the “government remains committed to making improvements to the A96 corridor including the dualling of Inverness to Nairn including the Nairn bypass”.

But she immediately sought to blame Westminster, saying “the stark challenges we now face due to the UK government’s autumn statement” that she claimed led to a “an almost 10 percent real terms cut in our capital funding.”

“I'm clearly aware of the importance of the route to those that live like working in the North and Northeast of Scotland,” she continued. “The current plan is to fully dual the route and as part of this process, we're undertaking the corridor review, the reviews, initial consultation generated, 11,000 different options to improve the corridor.”

Mr Kerr was unhappy with that response, he said: “This review, which was ordered simply to appease the Green Party, was supposed to be published over a year ago.

“And the fact is that in 2011, the SNP promised the people of the northeast that the A96 would be duelled fully by 2030 and over a decade of prevarication, millions of taxpayer pounds, endless excuses later – nothing, not even a mention of Aberdeen to Huntley in the program for government.

“Deputy First Minister, the people of the Northeast want a straight answer. Will the SNP fulfil the promise to fully duel the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030 – yes or no?”

A simple question

But Ms Robison did not say and instead accused Mr Kerr of being “pretty insulting” to those who took part in the consultation” while Mr Ewing sought the answer to what he said was “a simple question.”

He asked: “By what year will the construction of the Nairn bypass be completed?”

The deputy First Minister said: “So, first of all, as the First Minister confirmed to the member during our program for government statements to parliament on September 5, I want to reiterate that we're fully committed to making improvements to the A96 and that of course includes duelling the Inverness to Nairn section, including the Nairn bypass, which already has ministerial consent following a public local enquiry.

“Can I also advise that Transport Scotland continues to progress a significant amount of work required to prepare for publication of made orders, including the compulsory purchase orders with a view to completing the statutory process as soon as possible.

“In terms of our infrastructure investment plan, I have said that we will set out that plan, alongside the budget in the light of the changes that will have to be made in the light of the cut to our capital budget of 10 per cent over the next five years.

“But I can say to Fergus Ewing that the commitments I've laid out in my answer are commitments that we will make.”

How could it not be answered?

Speaking afterwards, Mr Ewing said: “For the last 14 years we have, as a party and government, promised the people of Nairn their bypass. Indeed the whole A96 was to be dualled by 2030. Yet not one metre of tarmac has been laid.

“The First Minister said the bypass was a cast iron commitment. So how then could the Deputy First Minister not answer the simple question that I asked today in Holyrood?

“It suggests that there is no plan and raises questions about why the numerous delays have occurred. I am seeking a full debate on the A9 and A96 and have support from the main parties (the Greens are anti-road).

“I shall continue to press the Scottish Government to deliver their aged promises.”

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