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Highland MSP Kate Forbes on A9: 'I do not think that any commitment should be forgotten'

By Gavin Musgrove

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One very interested on-looker at the A9 Crisis Summit yesterday was former SNP leadership challenger Kate Forbes.

There may not have even been the urgency for the gathering at Inverness' Eden Court theatre if the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch had been successful in her bid.

But with First Minister Humza Yousaf's 'cast-iron' pledge to dual the A9 made during the leadership race so far appearing hollow, Ms Forbes was keen to hear what new Transport Secretary Màiri McAllan had to tell the audience.

Kate Forbes MSP at the A9 Crisis Summit. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Kate Forbes MSP at the A9 Crisis Summit. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Ms Forbes said: "I think the case for dualling the A9 has been well and truly made – it was made 15 years ago.

"The key now is delivery and ensuring that it is complete.

"All of us who use the route on a regular basis know the challenges and we just do not want to see another newspaper headline about another fatality."

As for Mr Yousaf's pledge, Ms Forbes said: "I do not think that any commitment should be forgotten. There was a commitment that was made – in fact I recall it being that it would be of the first actions when appointed First Minister.

"My hope is that he is working behind the scenes with a view to publishing an updated timetable as quickly as possible."

Pressed on what would have happened with the A9 dualling project had she become First Minister, Ms Forbes said: "I certainly use the road on a pretty much daily basis.

"You do not need to persuade me of the need to dual the A9 and it certainly should be and would be one of my priorities."

The Highlands MSP said that a new timetable and committed funding for the project was now imperative.

She said: "It needs to be a deliverable and manageable timetable that gives confidence that it is going to be completed.

"On the funding, we need to be honest that if we believe that the A9 is a priority – which I do believe – then funding needs to be allocated upfront and this may have to come from somewhere else.

"That is the key – if it is a priority then the funding needs to be identified and allocated.

"And that is what I can do from the backbenches – continually raise awareness of the urgency of dualling the A9 and ensuring there is a timetable and funding to get it done."

She acknowledged that cost of the project – initially priced at £3b – was only going to continue to rise

Ms Forbes said: "I think it is highly unlikely that any infrastructure project gets cheaper as time goes on so the quicker you do it the more cost-effective it is.

"Of course we are in a cost of living crisis, inflation is very challenging but nobody is suggesting the dualling of the A9 is going to be finished next year.

"This is a medium term project and it is ensuring that we have confidence to get started on the next phase."

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