Autumn A9 update to Scottish Parliament now expected ‘in the coming weeks’
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That confirmation came in response to a nine-point motion submitted by Fergus Ewing calling for a debate in Holyrood to demand an A9 work deadline, a timeline for each section, and work to proceed continuously.
The news will be a blow to campaigners and those who have been patiently waiting since Humza Yousaf was elected to lead the SNP which resulted in his own 'cast iron' pledge.
He also said in July that “We're going to have to make progress on the A9, there are no ifs or buts about it, we cannot go another year, two years, three years without there being progress on the A9 – it would be unforgivable.”
But the level of progress is now a concern for those like Mr Ewing who fear the statement from either the transport secretary Mairi McAllan or transport minister Fiona Hyslop will be 'thin gruel'.
But a government spokesman was confident that it was progressing the issue as fast as possible, saying: “We are committed to dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness and work is continuing across the route. Parliament will be updated on the programme for completing the remaining sections in the coming weeks.
“Over £450 million has been spent to date on the dualling of the A9.
"This includes spend on preparatory work for all of the individual projects, as well as spend on land acquisition, construction of the two projects that have been completed to date, Kincraig to Dalraddy and Luncarty to Pass of Birnam, and advance works for future projects.
“The procurement for the dualling of the A9 between Tomatin to Moy is also under way.
"Following an extensive market consultation exercise, the new contract uses a different contract form – one that is preferred by contractors and used widely across the UK.
"It is anticipated that this contract will be awarded in early Summer 2024 and the project is expected to take around three years to build.”
Regarding the Inverness to Auldearn section of the A96, the spokesman said that while the commitment remains to dual the road, it would have to pass a 'Climate Compatibility Assessment' and a 'range of statutory assessments'.
Those 'outcomes' are only expected to be ready 'in the coming months for final public consultation' and only then will a final decision be reached – once again a significant delay.
The spokesman said: “As the First Minister confirmed during the statement to Parliament on the Programme for Government on 5 September, the Scottish Government is also committed to making improvements to the A96 and is undertaking a transparent, evidence-based review of the programme.
“Following publication of the initial appraisal report and the accompanying consultation report at the end of last year, we continue to push forward the necessary detailed work to inform the remaining stages of the review.
“These include a robust appraisal of the retained options alongside a Climate Compatibility Assessment and also a range of statutory assessments, with outcomes from this expected to be ready in the coming months for final public consultation, before a final decision can be reached.
“At the same time, preparation work continues on the dualling of the A96 Dualling Inverness to Nairn section, including the Nairn bypass, which already has Ministerial consent following a public local inquiry.
“We are continuing to progress the significant and intensive work required to prepare for publication of Made Orders, including the Compulsory Purchase Order, with a view to completing the statutory process as soon as possible.
“Delivery of the scheme can only commence if approved under the relevant statutory authorisation process and thereafter a timetable for progress can be set in line with available budgets.”