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John Swinney agrees to sign pledge tabled by The Inverness Courier to dual the A9 by 2035

By Scott Maclennan

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First Minister John Swinney has backed a pledge on the A9 made by his predecessor.
First Minister John Swinney has backed a pledge on the A9 made by his predecessor.

NEW First Minister John Swinney has said he is willing to sign the same pledge to dual the A9 by 2035 that The Inverness Courier put to his predecessor, Humza Yousaf.

“Yes, of course,” he told the Courier when asked this week if he would stand by that promise, adding that he is “wedded” to finally completing the project.

On top of that, MSP Fergus Ewing revealed that Mr Swinney also confirmed he would meet with SNP, Tory, Lib Dem, Labour and Alba MSPs about the dualling.

The move is key to winning back the confidence of members of the pubic in both the Highlands and Scotland-wide who are sceptical about Scottish Government promises, given that the new completiton date will still make dualling 10 years late compared to the previously promised deadline.

Currently the Scottish Government programme “targets” a completion date of 2035 with some sections dependent on private sector funding and market conditions for their completion.

It was this “wriggle room” that led The Inverness Courier last December to meet with then First Minister Humza Yousaf and get him to sign our pledge, offering a personal “cast iron guarantee” of his commitment to prioritising the 2035 deadline.

Mr Yousaf promised that the Scottish Government's plan is to complete dualling of the A9 between Inverness and Perth in 2035 and that it would be open about the project and keep people and the Scottish Parliament informed of progress.

At the time Mr Yousaf said: “It is a really important pledge because I will be the first to admit, we all know that there's been delays to the original timetable but what we've been able to set out today, first and foremost, is confirmation that it will be fully dualled and we'll do that in 2035.”

Now Mr Swinney has agreed to do the same, sating he is willing to put his name to the same pledge as “that's the government's programme and I'm very keen to make sure that we make progress.”

He added: “We've already taken important steps in the dualling of the A9 since the project was authorised with the Kincraig to Dalraddy stretch of dualling that has been undertaken.

“The Luncarty-Burnham (section) has been undertaken and completed as well. We have got Moy to Tomatin out to tender just now and I hope we can get that into the ground as soon as possible, and the other stages of the A9 dualling will follow from that.

“So I'm absolutely wedded to the delivery of A9 dualling, the government has set out the programme for doing that and the government has committed to delivering it.”

Since work on dualling started in 2011 less than one mile of the A9 has so far been dualled per year, leading campaigners to call for is speeding up of the whole process.

Mr Ewing, who has been at the forefront of efforts to bring the dualling to fruition and has been unsparing of his party’s failure to meet the original 2025 deadline, welcome the move by Mr Swinney.

“I am pleased that the new FM has confirmed his support for the dualling of the A9,” he said.

“I have already pressed him, at his very first, First Ministers Question Time, to meet myself and other MSPs from all other parties who also support the dualling. Only the Green Party oppose this.

“I am also pleased he has agreed to meet us and we are fixing up a date as soon as possible.”

Laura Hansler of the Dual the A9 group said: “We cannot allow them to roll back on promises again. Too many people are dying needlessly.

“We need to get this done.”

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