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MSP raises issue of A96 road dualling in Scottish Parliament

By Kyle Ritchie

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North East MSP Douglas Lumsden has warned that long-promised road infrastructure improvements have been “taken hostage” by the SNP-Green coalition at Holyrood.

At the Scottish Parliament, MSPs heard a “climate compatibility assessment” to dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen will report back “by the end of 2022.”

Mr Lumsden asked whether the Scottish Government would keep to its 2030 deadline for the project — “yes or no” — after a senior Scottish Government minister failed to do so on Wednesday.

Standing in for Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions, deputy John Swinney referred to full dualling as the “current” plan “but we agreed” to review it as part of the SNP-Green coalition agreement.

Green MSP Maggie Chapman previously said the A96 project “was unlikely to go ahead in full.”

Mr Lumsden asked in the Scottish Parliament: “At the finance committee on August 31, the cabinet secretary for finance and the economy gave the following commitment — the A9 is still going to be dualled and the A96 is referred to in the cooperation agreement in terms of the priorities of the next few years.

North East MSP Douglas Lumsden.
North East MSP Douglas Lumsden.

“But in the chamber yesterday, the minister for public finance, Tom Arthur, when questioned by Fergus Ewing and Jamie Halcro-Johnston could not give any commitment.

“So can I ask the Deputy First Minister, will the A96 be fully dualled by the 2030 commitment date? Yes or no?”

Mr Swinney said: "The issues in relation to the A96 are covered in the partnership agreement, which sets out transport enhancements on the A96 corridor, including dualling from Inverness to Nairn, bypassing of Nairn, Keith, Elgin and Inverurie, accompanied by measures to remove through traffic from bypass town centres, targeted road safety improvements where needed between Fochabers, Huntly and Inverurie to Aberdeen.

“The current plan is to fully dual the A96 route between Inverness and Aberdeen but we agreed to conduct a transparent evidence-based review to include a climate compatibility assessment to assess direct and indirect impacts on the climate and the environment. And that will report by the end of 2022."

Mr Lumsden said afterwards: “The A96 has been in the infrastructure plan for years and it has suddenly been taken hostage by the Greens.

“Uncertainty for businesses and jobs will continue and other planning matters will be on hold until we know when – and where – it will go ahead. This will affect people’s lives.

“Kicking the can down the road until late next year is just like the SNP who’ve done it for 14 years. It looks like the Greens are settling in for more of the same.”

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