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Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to face a grilling over her role in the A9 dualling failure

By Scott Maclennan

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Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon pictured together in 2007, the year the SNP promised to dual the A9.
Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon pictured together in 2007, the year the SNP promised to dual the A9.

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to face a much anticipated grilling over her role in the A9 dualling at the public petitions committee on Wednesday morning.

In September of last year the committee upgraded Kincraig campaigner Laura Hansler’s petition to a formal committee inquiry, greatly expanding the scope of its investigations.

The upcoming evidence session allows the committee to explore the Scottish Government’s decision in 2011 to commit to a 2025 target for dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness.

The timing is uncomfortable for the SNP as it highlights one of the party’s biggest broken promises in the middle of the general election campaign – the programme is at least 10 years late while the death toll continues to rise.

Alex Salmond has already given evidence. He said he hoped new First Minister John Swinney would be "anxious to redeem" the 2011 promise, saying: "It is a matter of principle, a matter of integrity and a matter of honour."

Based on the evidence taken to date, the committee have identified the key issues as being funding for the A9 dualling programme, the governance and decision-making structures and how progress was monitored.

And also confidence in the process going forward, including the availability of the skills, workforce, and materials necessary to complete the project within the revised timescales set out by the Scottish Government.

Ms Sturgeon’s tenure as First Minister starting in 2014 saw just over one mile of dual carriageway laid a year and prior to leading the country she was the cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities between 2012 to 2014.

A timeline based on internal government papers by the authoritative Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) emerged offering the clearest insight yet into what happened behind the scenes at the highest level.

It reveals how the government adopted an approach in 2018 that made it unachievable to reach the 2025 deadline but said nothing publicly. It also reveals that the first tremors of doubt about the deadline came in 2017.

The Scottish Government got the first indication that the 2025 deadline for the completion of the A9 in 2017 in an email to Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown.

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