Ditching A96 dualling would be 'monumental waste of taxpayers’ money', warns MSP
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A NORTH-east MSP has warned the Scottish Government that abandoning the dualling of the A96 would be a “monumental waste of taxpayers’ money”.
The call was made by Scottish Conservative North East MSP Liam Kerr after new figures showed £78 million has already been spent on the project.
The Scottish Government revealed in a Freedom of Information request that the cash has been used on “substantial development work” since 2013 which it now says will “inform an evidence-based review” of the scheme.
However, Mr Kerr said the SNP had moved the goalposts and are now happier to throw millions of pounds down the drain to satisfy their Green coalition partners.
Following the coalition agreement, Jacobs Aecom was appointed to conduct an assessment of the climate impact of upgrading the road between Aberdeen and Inverness.
Mr Kerr said the move has delayed the project even further, with Green campaigners saying it “demonstrably represents the end” of dualling the A96 in full.
The Tory MSP said: “It’s scandalous the SNP could potentially waste millions of pounds of taxpayers money by winding back on clear promises they have made to the north-east – all to appease their Green coalition partners.
“The A96 needs to be dualled to give drivers a safer and improved journey between Aberdeen and Inverness, drive the north-east economy forward and ensure our emergency services can get where they need without delays.
“But what makes this ridiculous situation even worse is that £78 million has already been spent on a project which the coalition of chaos seems to be finding ever more creative excuses to back out of.
“In their response, the Scottish Government even references the fact it could be seen as money being wasted which tells us everything we need to know about their attitude towards taxpayers cash.
“The choice for the SNP is simple: stick up for the people of the north-east by progressing with these long overdue plans for the A96 or cave in to the extremist Greens.”
In their response, the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government is committed to the north and east of Scotland, including improving the A96 corridor.
"The current plan is to fully dual the A96 route between Inverness and Aberdeen; however, we have agreed to conduct a transparent, evidence-based review of the programme which is under way and will report by the end of 2022 and will include a climate compatibility assessment. This is sensible good governance for major investment of this kind.
"The Scottish Ministers originally committed to dualling the A96 in 2011. We have been undertaking substantial development work on this important programme since 2013 which has been vital to inform our understanding of the significant undertaking of improving this key corridor.
"All projects, including the A96 programme, are subject to this detailed review and assessment work to ensure we deliver the right schemes and keep the acquisition of land and property and impacts on the environment to the absolute minimum.
"Good progress has been made. On the 31km Inverness to Nairn (including [the] Nairn bypass) section, following consideration of the Public Local Inquiry Reporters’ Report the Scottish Ministers have decided to proceed with the scheme. Decision letters were issued on February 19, 2021. The preferred options for the 46km Hardmuir to Fochabers and 36km east of Huntly to Aberdeen sections have both been published and the detailed development and assessment of both sections were being advanced.
"The substantial development work undertaken will not go to waste rather it will be vital to inform the evidence-based review."
The A96 Freedom of Information request can be viewed here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-202200272073/