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SNP displays bitterness at dualling critics as conference backs another A9/A96 vow

By Scott Maclennan

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Locator A9 near Tomatin junction.
Locator A9 near Tomatin junction.

The SNP appears to have been stung into action by Scottish Conservatives attacks on its failure to meet the A9 dualling deadline and the continued uncertainty over the A96 as the party “reaffirms” its commitment to the projects.

The party conference in Aberdeen passed a resolution to dual both the A9 and the A96 and to make it party policy to “allocate the necessary resources and expertise” to deliver on both projects.

Five party members – including Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick and Perth and North Perthshire MPS Pete Wishart – spoke in support of the resolution while just one person spoke against.

Three of the speakers expressed their frustration over the Tories on the A9 and A96 by alleging that the dualling issue was becoming a “political football” but not mention was made of total failure to meet the original 2025 deadline.

Tories get chuffed

Ms Roddick appeared to reference Fergus Ewing’s criticism of the SNP government and its coalition partners the Greens.

“Some try to use this issue to break up the Scottish Government, to do away with the Bute House agreement,” she said. “Please do not make the mistake of thinking they do this to strengthen us, it can only weaken us.

“That is why the Tories get so chuffed when they can use SNP quotes to throw at us at First Minister’s Questions and more importantly it is creating division where none exists.”

She added: “There is real pain in the losses when we lose lives on that road but there is also real pain in the perception, in the belief that there has been a broken promise.

“My constituents are being led to believe that the SNP doesn’t really care about the A9 or the A96 so please help us to be clear today that this is not true.”

Mr Wishart said: “I have lived cheek by jowl with this road for many years so I will take no lectures from anybody wishing to play political games with the dualling of the A9 – we will get down to the business of fixing it.”

He added:“I get sick and tired of listening to the Tories constantly bringing this up in parliament as if they own the issue.”

And David Birkett from the SNP’s Peterhead branch said: “Our opposition have got to turn this project into a bit of a political football and I am afraid we have given them too much possession in this game so SNP Elgin and SNP Peterhead propose that we tackle them and we take possession of the ball and stick it in the back of the net.”

Easy to understand why dualling is the number one issue

More substantively the proposer of the resolution Elgin Councillor Jérémie Fernandes argued that “the number one issue for the people of the north and north east is the dualling of these roads and it is easy to understand why.

“These roads are not just stretches of tarmac, they are arteries of connectivity and progress. They serve as vital conduits connecting the Highlands and the North East of the country to the rest of Scotland yet these vital arteries have been plagued by congestion and lost economic opportunities.”

Huntly SNP Councillor Gwyneth Petrie sought to shoot down measure designed to make the A96 safer but in reality would leave it just as dangerous as before.

“I have heard suggestions of average speed cameras to improve safety – I drive on this road every week,” she said.

“I drove here today behind the standard four HGVs, three caravans, two tractors and the ever dreaded horse box – the majority of the cars on that road don’t get to the speed to be caught by the speed cameras.

“It is dangerous for other reasons and the dualling of the road as well as the improvements it will bring to the design of junctions along it will immeasurably improve the safety of all who use it.

“I stand full behind the ongoing encouragement of the use in public transport but the reality is that given the geography of Aberdeenshire, Moray and the Highlands there will always be a requirement for cars and the hope is my constituents will move to electric cars but those cars will still require modern, up-to-standard roads to run on.

"We are not asking for the dualling of these roads as a nice to have or as an added extra – we are saying it is absolutely imperative that these vital infrastructure developments go ahead to secure and enhance our economies and most importantly to ensure that no more lives are lost.”

the full resolution from the elgin branch, peterhead branch

Conference asserts that the full dualling of the A9 and A96, with the implementation of modern safety standards, such as separated carriageways, improved junctions, enhanced signage, and state of the art Traffic Management systems, will create safer road environments that minimise the likelihood of accidents, reduce injury, and ultimately save lives. Conference reaffirms the SNP's unwavering commitment to fully dualling the A9 and A96 as a top infrastructure priority for Scotland. Conference further reaffirms the SNP's determination to allocate the necessary resources and expertise to expedite the planning, development, and construction of these road projects, and the party's commitment to working collaboratively with local authorities, communities, and other stakeholders to achieve these objectives.

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