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FERGUS EWING: Dualling the A9 and the A96 is a clear Scottish Government pledge – and, in the face of loss of life, we must deliver

By Fergus Ewing

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Fergus Ewing
Fergus Ewing

Last week in Holyrood I raised again the issue of dualling the A9 and the A96 from Inverness to Auldearn (including the Nairn bypass).

Our pledges are clear the Scottish Government will deliver the dualling of both roads, but these pledges are 13 years old now. While I recognise progress has been made on the A9, there is still so much to do and a real will from the people to have this delivered. The Tomatin to Moy section is due to be completed by 2025. The design and other preparatory work have been undertaken on other sections that remain yet to be dualled.

It is essential that we deliver on our pledges, in order to maintain trust and confidence. Two elements which take a lifetime to build with the public. As your local MSP I want to assure you I am persistent on this case and recognise the strength of feeling to have both roads dualled. In the first two full weeks back after summer recess I have raised this in the chamber on two occasions, including with the First Minister, and I will keep going till we succeed.

Last week, I made a point of order to press upon the Scottish Government to publish a revised timetable and detailed proposals of their plans and how both roads will be delivered and, most importantly, when sections are expected to be delivered. The First Minister pledged in her answer to me that safety is paramount.

Though I cannot comment on the specific causes for incidents, which are properly the job of the police and others to investigate, it is clear that the risk of serious incidents on roads which are not dual carriageways is increased, because traffic travelling in opposite directions is not separated by a central reservation.

I know this summer, and, indeed, even over the last few weeks, there have been major delays due to road closures with accidents the length of the A9 and A96 and, tragically, the loss of life. The Highlands are entitled to access safe, dualled roads the same as we see in the central belt and it’s paramount that safety on these roads is taken into serious consideration.

The original deadline for dualling the A9 was to be 2025. Taking in where we are now and the effect lockdown has had to postponing projects and increasing the capital spend required to them, this target is plainly impossible and won’t be achieved.

A revised timetable must now be published, and I shall be continuing to press for this to be done and report first to Courier readers or indeed any constituent who wishes to be kept updated on these matters.

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