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The 'shocking indifference' of the Scottish cabinet that never discussed the failure to meet the A9 deadline

By Scott Maclennan

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Room for improvement: the A9 through Strathspey. Picture: Sandrone
Room for improvement: the A9 through Strathspey. Picture: Sandrone

The admission that the Scottish cabinet has never discussed its failure to meet the dualling deadline for the A9 of 2025 has been branded “astonishing and unacceptable” by the Conservatives.

Shadow transport minister Graham Simpson slammed the “shocking indifference” to the plight of road users after a Freedom of Information request revealed that the seismic failure never reached a top level agenda.

Despite Transport Scotland first informing ministers in early December that the timetable was unachievable, and then transport minister Jenny Gilruth informing parliament of this in February, the cabinet have yet to discuss the matter.

On February 8 the Transport Minister at the time Jenny Gilruth announced that the government would not meet its target of 2025, she later revealed that she was first informed of this in December last year.

That left more than two months before Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation for the cabinet to discuss this matter but according to the Tory FOI it was never raised at that level.

The SNP first pledged to dual the A9 – which has a terrifying death toll from accidents – in 2011 and campaigners have voiced their fury at the painfully slow progress since.

'Shocking indifference of ministers'

Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson MSP said: “It’s astonishing and unacceptable that the SNP’s failure to deliver on this essential, life-saving infrastructure project has never even been discussed at cabinet.

“It highlights the shocking indifference of ministers towards campaigners and those who have already lost their lives on this death-trap trunk road.

“It’s more than four months since the then-transport secretary was informed by Transport Scotland that the timetable could not be achieved and two months since Jenny Gilruth admitted as much in parliament.

“So it beggars belief that this has not been a major – or even a minor – topic for debate in cabinet. Ministers ought to be straining every sinew to address their appallingly slow progress in dualling the A9. It’s literally a matter of life and death.

“It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the influence of the car-hating Scottish Greens on the Nationalist coalition means this project – and a similarly vital one to upgrade the A96 – is simply not a priority for the SNP.

“If that’s the case, it’s shameful and unforgivable.”

Firmly committed to dualling

The new Transport Minister Kevin Stewart said: “The Scottish Government remains firmly committed to completing the dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness.

“The £3 billion investment (at 2008 prices) is one of the biggest transport infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history and we have already invested over £430 million delivering the programme.

“Ministers have provided a number of comprehensive updates to parliament already this year on progress with A9 Dualling.

“While it is disappointing that the first procurement of the Tomatin to Moy section failed to result in an acceptable bid, we are making good progress towards a new procurement exercise with a view to awarding a construction contract by the end of the year.

“Design work is also progressing on the rest of the programme, with ministerial decisions to complete the statutory process confirmed for seven of the remaining eight schemes.

“Work to determine the most suitable procurement options for these remaining sections is ongoing. On 8 February 2023 the former Minister for Transport indicated that this work is expected to conclude in Autumn 2023 and an update on a renewed timescale for completion will be provided to the Scottish Parliament at that time.

“The Scottish Government also remains committed to improving the A96. While the current plan is to fully dual the route we are undertaking a review of the corridor with outcomes expected this summer for consultation.”

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