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Highlands and Islands MSP claims Scottish Government 'wasting precious time' by not progressing A96 Inverness to Nairn dualling

By Donald Wilson

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MSP Edward Mountain.
MSP Edward Mountain.

The project received a ministerial decision to proceed in February 2021 but still requires to complete statutory processes.

A Freedom of Information request, lodged by Highlands Conservative MSP Edward Mountain, also revealed that £29,560,913.16 has been spent on the project so far.

A further £2,121,858.42 has also been spent so far on the A96 Corridor Review which is assessing the environmental impact of the full A96 dualling project.

The review came about as part of the SNP-Green coalition agreement and stalled progress on A96 upgrades beyond the Inverness to Nairn section.

The review is due to be published at the end of this year.

In a written question, Mr Mountain asked: “On what specific date will [the Scottish Government] announce the delivery timeline for the dualling of the A96 Inverness to Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) scheme?”

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth replied: “We continue to progress the preparation stages on the A96 dualling Inverness to Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) scheme with a view to completing the statutory process. This includes the significant work required to prepare for publication of made orders, including the compulsory purchase order, in the coming weeks.

“Subject to no legal challenge being received, the Scottish ministers will then have the relevant powers to acquire the land necessary to construct the scheme.

“Delivery of the scheme can only commence if approved under the relevant statutory procedures and thereafter a timetable for progress can be set in line with available budgets. It is not possible to set a firm programme for delivery of the scheme until statutory consents are completed.”

Mr Mountain told the Inverness Courier: “Highlanders have waited long enough for construction to start on the dualling of the Inverness to Nairn section of the A96.

“It’s now been 18 months since this shovel-ready project received ministerial approval but precious time is being wasted.

“I welcome the investment so far but there is a high price to pay for more dithering and delay on vital infrastructure projects, as we’ve seen with the spiralling costs of HMP Highland which has doubled in price.

“That’s why we need to see rapid progress towards construction now. Every day wasted also means safety is being risked on a route that desperately needs modernising.

“The SNP and Green’s A96 Corridor Review has also costed in excess of £2 million and is only serving to frustrate the region’s clear need for further trunk road improvements.

“I believe the entirety of the A96 should be dualled as originally promised but the SNP remain in thrall to the Green’s anti-motorist and anti-road agenda.”

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “It remains the Scottish Government’s commitment to fully dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen however, we are undertaking a transparent evidence-based review of the corridor.

“The recent public consultation received an unprecedented level of engagement with nearly 4700 responses, generating more than 11,000 suggestions and potential opportunities for the route. Given the sheer volume of responses received and the high level of options this generated the costs to date for the review are not unreasonable.

“Rightly, it has taken more time than originally anticipated to consider and to appraise all of those options, however, the report on the public consultation and the initial appraisal will be published by the end of the year.

“We also continue the preparation for the dualling of the Inverness to Nairn (including the Nairn Bypass) section, which is separate from the wider A96 review process. We expect to be able to make the orders for this part of the A96 in the coming weeks. The overall costs for the scheme incurred to date are reasonable for a project at this stage of design and of this scale.”

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