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A9 DUALLING: So many questions to answer says Fergus Ewing

By Tom Ramage

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Fergus Ewing next to the A9 near Carrbridge.
Fergus Ewing next to the A9 near Carrbridge.

Long standing A9 campaigner Fergus Ewing has welcomed the confirmation of the contract award for dualling of the Tomatin-Moy section.

But the SNP MSP vowed to continue to ‘harry, hound, cajole and ultimately persuade the Scottish Government to do more, do better with no more further avoidable delays’.

He was reacting to the announcement earlier today that Balfour Beatty have successfully secured the contract for the works.

Mr Ewing commented: “First, I welcome that this award has finally been made. Balfour Beatty are well regarded, and have a strong proven track record of professional delivery of projects.

“But the announcement that this section was to be dualled was first made early in 2021, over three years ago .

“The dualling work itself will not be completed - to this fairly short section - for several more years to come.

“And the original tender process failed because the Scottish Government said that the then sole bidder’s tendered price was adjudged to be far too high.

“Surely it’s now time to come clean? If the General Election has taught us anything it’s that we must level with the public or else we can’t and won’t regain their lost trust and confidence.”

The former Cabinet Secretary for Rural Development and veteran SNP campaigner continued: “I therefore now call on both the FM and Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop to open up the books - on what is after all expenditure of public money - our money - and reveal what the original price was in the first failed tender process.

“Many will ask: is the total price now of £184.7 million actually even higher than the sum that was rejected before because it was then said to be too high?

“The public must surely have a right to know this, and are sick and fed up of Government secrecy about the expenditure of large amounts of taxpayers money.

“So. Come on John and Fiona; time to level with the public on the A9 and indeed the dualling of A96 included the long awaited Nairn by-pass?

“Show that the Scottish public you are in charge - not Sir Humphrey Mac-Appleby!

“The true facts will emerge at some point - what’s the benefit of keeping them secret now? It only causes public mistrust to fester and grow.”

Mr Ewing raised the the meeting with the FM of cross party MSPs which he initiated and which took place on June 25, where an undertaking was made to give careful consideration to the case for accelerating the completion of the entire dualling programme.

“So why was that not then confirmed to me by him in public, in the Holyrood Chamber, at the FMQ I asked him just two days later on 27th June?

“What are they trying to hide?

“Are they just sticking with the 11-year plan to complete by 2035 because Transport Scotland officials tell them to?

“The public have not forgotten we promised to finish the A9 dualling by 2025. So do we not have a moral duty to make amends by completing it as swiftly as possible?

“And why are Scottish Government and Transport Scotland not being open about that acceleration of the programme which all main parties agree is both necessary and achievable?

“How many more lives will be lost in the meantime on the A9? Every life lost is a devastation for the family involved.”

Mr Ewing pointed out that industry had said it could complete the project sooner than 2035.

“And from my own inquiries, the finance is available. So what’s the problem?

“The Scottish Government have had over three years of this session and four transport secretaries to answer these and many other questions on the A9.

“How can we have a serious debate about accelerating the A9 without putting the facts into the public domain?”

He welcomed today’s progress but felt it was too little, too late, pledging: “I will continue to do my job which is to harry, hound, cajole and ultimately persuade the Scottish Government to do more, do better and with no further avoidable delays.

“Remember the grim truth is this: every year of further delay will cost yet more people their lives. “

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