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by Kirsteen Paterson
04 October 2023
Alex Neil: A9 dualling delays are damaging Scotland

Alex Neil is a former member of the Scottish Government

Alex Neil: A9 dualling delays are damaging Scotland

Fully-costed plans for dualling the A9 were made a decade ago, ex-Scottish Government minister Alex Neil has said.

The delays could raise the price by £1bn, he claimed.

Neil, who was infrastructure secretary when the plan to dual the key route was announced in 2011, has accused the government of having a "gobsmacking" lack of "ambition" on roads.

The work was an SNP manifesto commitment and the former MSP, who stood down in 2021, said: "I think it's very disappointing and very damaging to the Scottish economy, and even far more damaging to the Highlands and Islands, that this well thought-out project has not been completed, let alone on time."

Neil denied the initial 2025 target for the A9 dualling was "aspirational" and told Holyrood's Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee that Transport Scotland "assured" him "that both physically and financially it was perfectly feasible to achieve the dualling of the A9 between Inverness and Perth by 2025, and Aberdeen [the A96] by 2030".

He said that followed the delivery of a "detailed plan" in May 2012 which outlined the timeline for delivery.

On the lack of progress on the project, he said: "When we eventually get to do it, it's probably going to cost up to £1bn more than it needs to have done because of these delays."

The committee has launched an inquiry into the project following the submission of a petition on the matter.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said dualling will not be complete before the 2026 Holyrood election but his government is "absolutely committed" to delivering it.

When asked by Jackson Carlaw if the presence of the Scottish Greens in government might be an obstacle to delivery, given that party's stance on roadbuilding, Neil said: "I wouldn't be allowing the Greens to put a veto on this. This is for Scotland's economic future. 

"The northeast clearly is facing major challenges. Although it's a much richer area than many other parts of Scotland, clearly it has to diversify its economy because it's already in the transition away from for from oil and gas. 

"That will take a number of decades to be completed, but the northeast economy cannot do without the dualling of the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness if it is to achieve the growth rate of which it is capable, and I'm talking about a sustainable growth rate."

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