A 'significant democratic moment' hailed as Humza Yousaf called to give evidence on the A9
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A9 campaigners have hailed a “significant democratic moment” after First Minister Humza Yousaf and former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were called to provide evidence over the Scottish Government’s failure of the dualling programme.
In letters seen by The Inverness Courier, Holyrood’s petitions committee has also asked Keith Brown, Michael Matheson and current transport secretary Màiri McAllan to give written evidence.
Convener Jackson Carlaw said that all five could also be asked to give oral evidence while the Scottish Government has been requested to hand over Transport Scotland documents relating to the A9 between 2012 and 2023.
The move marks a massive escalation of the inquiry by the citizen participation and public petitions committee that was sparked by the petition launched by Kincraig A9 campaigner Laura Hansler after the government admitted it would fail to meet its deadline of dualling the Inverness to Perth section by 2025.
Ms Hansler said: “I welcome the news that the Scottish Parliament’s petitions committee are taking the inevitable next step and are investigating the decisions that took place under the watch of previous transport ministers.
“Calling Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon to account for their roles in the delays is a significant democratic moment. This is a real vindication of the parliamentary petitions process providing the public with a real opportunity to hold the government to account.
“We won't rest until the A9 is dualled, and we won't stand for any more excuses and lack of accountability. Now is the time for the Scottish Government to be completely transparent as to why these failings occurred and why there appears to be undocumented delays on the non-delivery of their promised dualling by 2025.
“The people who have died on the A9, and the families and communities affected by those losses deserve justice, they deserve government accountability and above all they need progress on this promised and funded project. It is time to admit what went so clearly wrong, account for it, and move forward.”
Inverness and Nairn SNP MSP Fergus Ewing, who has effectively staked his political career on getting answers over the A9, told the Courier three weeks ago that he would press for Ms Sturgeon to provide evidence to the inquiry.
“The petitions committee inquiry has now sought all the internal advice documents from officials to ministers on the funding and programme for the dualling of the A9,” he said. "These documents have been withheld thus far.”
He went on: “The committee wishes to know the answers to many key questions: Why was the plan decided by Alex Neil not delivered? Did other ministers 'take their foot off the accelerator'? Why did they not progress the plan which Mr Neil approved and proceed with the dualling of the sections in the timetable set out in the plan? Mr Neil said that the funding was available to do the work, so what happened to that and was it spent elsewhere in Scotland?
"Once we have got these documents we can, as a committee, then consider if we need to take oral evidence from the ministers that succeeded Mr Neil. These ministers include Nicola Sturgeon, Keith Brown and Michael Matheson. The convenor has also given them the chance to provide their own reflections and comment on Mr Neil's evidence.
"The inquiry is seeking to advise the Scottish Government how best and most quickly to complete the dualling of the A9. But to do that, we also need to know what went wrong, what mistakes were made and why so little progress was made over the years since 2012 when cabinet secretary Alex Neil delivered a plan."
Earlier this month, Mr Neil, the former cabinet secretary for infrastructure, revealed that a detailed dualling plan was ready in 2012 but subsequently the Scottish Government effectively “betrayed” its promise to the Highlands. To support the inquiry, the committee has now requested a copy of this document, understood to be dated May 28, 2012.