First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has added further doubt to the prospect of the A9 being dualled by the Government’s target date of 2025.
Responding to a question from Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston at today’s FMQs, Ms Sturgeon again failed to commit to the timetable, arguing Covid had proved a challenge to the completion of the project on time and claiming the work would now be completed “as close to the original target dates as possible”.
Mr Halcro Johnston, who has repeatedly sought answers from ministers on the potential delays the project faces, called on Nicola Sturgeon to be honest with his constituents and admit that the Scottish Government did not expect work to be completed by the 2025 target date. He also accused the SNP of efforts to hide bad news over delays until after May’s Holyrood elections, with Transport Secretary Michael Matheson writing to Mr Halcro Johnston to advise him that an update on progress on the A9 would now not be available until the Summer, after voters had gone to the polls.
Mr Halcro Johnston said: “Trying to get clarity from ministers on this vital infrastructure project is like trying to get blood out of a stone. It’s very difficult to avoid drawing the conclusion that they know full well that the project won’t be completed on time and the deadline will be missed, but they don’t want to admit it before the elections in May."
“In her short response to me, Nicola Sturgeon must have used “possible” or “possibly” five or six times, hardly an encouraging sign that the First Minister has any confidence whatsoever in the target date being met. The SNP’s record on road infrastructure across the Highlands and Islands is truly appalling, and it’s now becoming increasingly apparent that their flagship project of dualling of the A9 is not going to be completed on time."
“There is also growing concern over the very future of the A96 dualling and, as anyone who has driven along the A83 or A82 recently can testify, there are other key transport links in need of serious and urgent attention."
“The feeling amongst many in the Highlands and Islands is that Central Belt projects get the priority treatment from the SNP, while our local schemes are left delayed or undelivered”.