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Motion lodged in bid to boost A96 dualling conversation in Holyrood

By Federica Stefani

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Fergus Ewing. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Fergus Ewing. Picture: Callum Mackay.

A Highland MSP has lodged a motion in Holyrood seeking a debate on progress over dualling the A96 and building the Nairn bypass.

The motion presented earlier this month by Fergus Ewing MSP has received the support of MSPs from SNP Labour Tory and Lib Dem, and Ash Regan the Alba MSP, however no Green MSP has supported the motion.

It was presented before Humza Yousaf announced his resignation from First Minister yesterday, after he removed the Greens from the power-sharing deal the Bute House Agreement last week.

The motion requests to “note the longstanding commitment” of the Scottish Government to dual the A96, understands that the Scottish Government has not made any commitment regarding when the dualling of the Smithton to Auldearn section of the road will be delivered, and that it accepts that the uncertainty around the delivery of the project is causing widespread concern and anger, especially in Nairn and Nairnshire.

It also seeks the acknowledgment of the delay in the publication of Made Orders, a necessary step for the development of the project.

Mr Ewing said: “Last month the made orders were issued. This is for the dualling of the section of the A9 from Inverness to Auldearn including the Nairn bypass. This was at least five years overdue. But my request that Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop also publish a timetable for completion of the works fell on deaf ears.

“I made it clear that unless or until the Government come clean and make an honest statement saying when this project will be started and finished, there will remain huge scepticism as to the real intention of seeing this through.

“The Government have an annual of between four and five thousand million pounds. I know the work will not be done this year or next. But after that, the capital budget is not determined anyway. So there is sufficient money to fund the Nairn by pass. What is in doubt is to what extent this is a priority for the Scottish Government.

“The main thrust of the debate is to put further pressure on the Scottish Government to deliver on their long-standing promises to dual this section of the road.

The motion has not as yet been assigned a date for debating it, however Mr Ewing said he was pressing the Whips to find a space“ for this debate.

Scottish Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Scottish Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Scottish Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain, who is supporting the motion, said: "The dualling of the A96 is long overdue, and the lack of any meaningful progress is totally unacceptable.

"The SNP has refused to listen to communities, campaigners and opposition MSPs.

"Perhaps now it will listen to one of its own and finally get going on this vital piece of infrastructure.

"Communities served by this route rightly feel that, were this road in the central belt, it would have been upgraded long ago."

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to improving the A96, including dualling the Inverness to Nairn section and a Nairn Bypass.

“The publication of Made Orders for the scheme on 12 March represents a major step forward in delivering around 31 km of new dual carriageway between Inverness and Hardmuir.

“To date, Ministers have not received intimation of any challenge to the making of the orders and subject to no challenge being received, this would complete the statutory process for the scheme and allow us to acquire the land required to build it.

“It will also allow us to take forward work to determine the most suitable procurement option for delivering the scheme and thereafter a timetable for progress can then be set in line with available budgets.”

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