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First Minister confirms launch of contract tender for Tomatin-Moy section of the A9

By Scott Maclennan

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First Minister Humza Yousaf mentions the A9 in his first Programme for Government.
First Minister Humza Yousaf mentions the A9 in his first Programme for Government.

The tendering process has been launched for the Tomatin to Moy section while the A96 looks like it is a severe risk as First Minister Humza Yousaf delivers his Programme for Government.

Promises to dual the road were renewed in the First Minister’s Programme for Government – as they have been since the SNP first made the promise in 2007 – but there was no further details on when or how that may happen.

What is certain is that the tendering process for Tomatin to Moy has been relaunched – the original process was deemed a failure due to the high costs of the contracts offered.

Mr Yousaf in a letter to transport secretary Mairi McAllan – who earlier this year attended The Courier's A9 Crisis Summit – ordered her to 'Urgently progress the procurement of the Tomatin to Moy section of the A9 Dualling between Perth and Inverness, providing a further 9.6km of dual carriageway."

There was not much new on the A9 dualling programme beyond the promises to deliver it and the Inverness to Nairn section in full but it does appear that the A96 has been downgraded as now only “improvements” are promised.

The Programme for Government claimed that “we are a government for the whole of Scotland” citing the Green Freeport in Inverness and Cromarty and remains “fully committed to dualling the A9 between Inverness and Perth”.

But it goes on to say that commitment now only extends to “making improvements to the A96, including dualling Inverness to Nairn and the Nairn Bypass, and we will publish the review of the A96 Dualling Programme following the public engagement last year.”

That will be greeted with enormous hostility by many people in Moray and Grampian as well as the Highlands who have to regularly travel the road between Inverness and Aberdeen.

Laura Hansler at a petitions committee meeting at Kincraig Community Hall on the A9 Dualling.
Laura Hansler at a petitions committee meeting at Kincraig Community Hall on the A9 Dualling.

'Beggars belief'

A9 Dualling campaigner Laura Hansler said after hearing the statement that fundamentally trust is gone because

"I fail to be convinced these are all words we have heard before how he intends 'his' government to deliver on the nine remaining sections, when we have be repeatedly failed before including when in 2016 Mr Yousaf was Transport Minister himself beggars belief.

"His 'let me make it very clear' statement was met by derisory scoffing throughout the chamber, trust has gone, I’m off setting this with his other claims of six new ferries and the Nairn bypass.

"The Scottish government must be transparent in how they seek to fund not just the A9 Dualling but these other outstanding commitments.

"The only way to gain any tangible levels of trust now between government and the Highland electorate is to publish a full timetable, of each of the remaining nine sections, and be realistic about where they seek to fund this programme."

'Sweet words' to 'appease' people in the north

On the dualling of the A9, the A96 and the Nairn bypass, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said: “The lack of detail in the statement is astonishing.

“The First Minister says his government is committed to improving the A96 – including dualling the road from Inverness to Nairn, with a Nairn bypass, and that his government will dual the A9 from Inverness to Perth but there is absolutely no substance to the statement with no dates or timelines given.

“It’s sweet words from the First Minister to try to appease the people in the north but only real commitment, in the form of a detailed timeline for these works, will go anywhere close to satisfying the communities who use these roads daily.”

Mrs Grant added: “The launch of the procurement for the Tomatin to Moy section is welcome and we will hold the government to account to make sure we don’t see a repeat of the dismal failure to secure a contract previously.”

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