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Furious MSPs say A9 gas works are 'strangling' the Highlands as 'disengaged' SGN slammed

By Scott Maclennan

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MSP Douglas Ross posted this picture when he was caught in the delays.
MSP Douglas Ross posted this picture when he was caught in the delays.

MSPs up and down the A9 have called out the Surrey-based gas distribution giant SGN for delays on the A9 caused by its work that they are warning is not just strangling the Highland economy but could cost lives.

It comes after work began around Dunkeld on pipe replacement work leading to a major increase in delays on the route already known as “Scotland’s killer road” by as much as two and half hours.

A topical question was brought by Inverness-born Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser and it prompted rare cross-party unanimity in SGN’s handling of the situation including from former deputy First Minister John Swinney.

The normally mild mannered Perthshire MSP did not hold back when describing talks he had with SGN: “I have had many calls with many corporate leaders, I have never had one quite so disengaged as the chief executive of SGN on Friday.”

Conservative Highland MSP Edward Mountain was not less furious, saying: “Having been one of those caught up in the delays, two hours 30 minutes coming down, two hours 23 minutes going north, I know how much those works are strangling the Highlands.”

He sought confirmation from transport minister Fiona Hyslop that she would not accept such delays for the 18 weeks of works, adding: “Whilst SGN have the right to do this, they don’t have the right to have such an impact on the Highlands.”

And finally, the SNP’s Fergus Ewing while warning about the “devastating scale of damage” to the Highland economy if the work continues until February but emphasised the greatest risk was to life.

He asked: “Is there not a risk to human life? Driver planning the journey normally expecting it will take three hours and then finding it takes six hours not three hours, then if they are fatigued the risk of driver error and therefore fatalities increases exponentially.”

He then called on the transport minister to instruct the highly paid executives at Transport Scotland “who subcontract responsibility to get out of their plush offices in Glasgow and get to Dunkeld and supervise this being sorted out?”

An SGN spokesperson said: “We understand that motorists have been experiencing delays in the A9 at various times since phase 2 of our project began on Monday October 23.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience being caused and completely understand the frustrations of motorists caught up in the tailbacks.

“We’re continuing to work in close consultation with BEAR Scotland, Transport Scotland, the local authority, and our contractor Morrison Energy Services.”

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