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Transport officials warned senior ministers not to place ‘definitive date’ on dualling of A9, reports say

By Niall Harkiss

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Reports suggest a transport briefing issued in 2022 cast doubt over the viability of the SNP's commitment to its new 2035 deadline for dualling of the A9.
Reports suggest a transport briefing issued in 2022 cast doubt over the viability of the SNP's commitment to its new 2035 deadline for dualling of the A9.

Doubt has been cast over a Scottish Government pledge to dual the A9 by the end of 2035 amid reports that transport officials warned ministers two years ago that a date for completion was “uncertain”.

The Times states that a briefing prepared by Transport Scotland for senior ministers back in December 2022 warned that a “definitive date” should not be placed on the project, stating that completion would be “no earlier than early-mid 2030s” on the basis that work is “undertaken at as fast a rate” as the market could accommodate.


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A9 campaigner Laura Hansler slams Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘lame excuses’ for dualling delays

The official website for the £3.7 billion project, a9dualling.scot, now states that the final phase of the project is “expected to become fully operational by the end of 2035, at the earliest.”

The transport briefing, which was recently published under the Freedom of Information legislation, goes on to state that “it is not considered that a definitive date can be offered for completion of the programme”.

Former First Minister Humza Yousaf promised last December that the Scottish Government's plan is to complete dualling of the A9 between Inverness and Perth in 2035 and that it would be open about the project and keep people and the Scottish Parliament informed of progress.

At the time Mr Yousaf said: “It is a really important pledge because I will be the first to admit, we all know that there's been delays to the original timetable but what we've been able to set out today, first and foremost, is confirmation that it will be fully dualled and we'll do that in 2035.”

First Minister John Swinney told the Courier in May that he would stand by that promise, adding that he is “wedded” to finally completing the project.

MSP Fergus Ewing also revealed that Mr Swinney would meet with SNP, Tory, Lib Dem, Labour and Alba MSPs about the dualling.

The SNP had initially committed to a promise to dual the A9 by 2025.

But so far, only two out of 11 sections on the route between Inverness and Perth have been completed. A stretch of 77 miles is still to be upgraded.

Nicola Sturgeon, who assumed the role of First Minister for the bulk of the programme, appeared before the public petitions committee inquiry into the decade-long delay last week, and said that A9 dualling was delayed because of “austerity, Brexit, the pandemic” while also admitting that it is in effect the Highlands’ “turn” for investment.

But prominent A9 campaigner Laura Hansler labelled excuses from Nicola Sturgeon as “lame” and that she believes the former First Minister “simply doesn’t care”.

Ms Hansler claims Ms Sturgeon had not apologised for the non-delivery of the programme, and that blaming Brexit, Covid, Ukraine, and the cost of living crisis “when they simply were not on the horizon is inexcusable”.

She added: “She must have known – and Edward Mountain pushed her on it – that in 2018, even in 2017, under instruction from the cabinet secretary that it would not be delivered [in time] so she made a conscious choice not to share that information with the public.”

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