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by Louise Wilson
29 May 2024
Nicola Sturgeon ‘sorry’ A9 will not be dualled by 2025

Nicola Sturgeon gave evidence to the petitions committee on Wednesday | SPTV

Nicola Sturgeon ‘sorry’ A9 will not be dualled by 2025

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “sorry” the Scottish Government has been unable to meet its target to dual the A9 from Perth to Inverness by 2025.

But she denied suggestions that the project had been deprioritised by her government, instead stating the delays were due to unexpected complexities.

The parliament’s petitions committee has been taking evidence on the major delays to the project.

The Scottish Government confirmed last year that the route would not be fully dualled until 2035 – a decade after the initial target set by the SNP in 2011.

Sturgeon told the committee that pledge had been made in “good faith” without realising how “challenging” delivery was going to be.

She said reaching the 2025 target would have required a “fair wind” on every aspect of the project.

She added: “We have progressed the A9 with drive and determination. We just have encountered along the way significant challenges – some of them foreseeable in a project of this scale, but many of the others that were encountered not foreseeable at the time the 2025 target was set.”

Asked if the people of the Highlands should be offered an apology for the failure by SNP MSP Fergus Ewing, Sturgeon said she felt “regret”.

She said: “I am sorry that we haven’t dualled, or won’t dual, the A9 by 2025. I regret that.

“I think the people in the Highlands have every right to feel the way they do about that, not just because it’s a target that was set and not met, but the nature of the project and the reasons for the commitment to dualling the A9 was so serious in terms of safety and obviously the loss of life.”

However she reiterated the issues with the project was not due to a lack of drive. She continued: “I do not accept that the failure to meet that target was because we didn’t bother and we weren’t trying to meet that target.”

One major challenge, the former first minister told MSPs, was due to a change in funding options in 2014.

Responding to claims that it was known as early at 2018 that the road would not be dualled on time, Sturgeon insisted that was not the case as that was a small chance a design build capital funded option could have done so.

She said it was not until late 2022/early 2023 that it became clear there was no route to 2025 delivery. But she did accept that the government “maybe took too long to accept it wasn’t possible”.

Questioned about the impact of the Greens entering government or climate targets, Sturgeon said the government had remained committed to dualling because it was more to do with safety than anything else.

She said the delay was “not about the Greens being government or because we downgraded the priority of that for some consideration of climate and emissions targets”.

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