A crucial section of the Aberdeen by-pass could be delayed by as much as a year.
Economy Secretary Keith Brown has admitted that the Balmedie-Tipperty stretch of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) is now unlikely to be finished until “Winter 2017/18”.
It had been due to be finished by the spring.
The £745million AWPR includes the dualling of the Balmedie to Tipperty section of the A90 between Aberdeen and Ellon.
In a letter to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Mr Brown said the contractor had told him in early November that they had failed to complete “key earthworks” before this winter, delaying the project.
He warned of “environmental risks” if the works were to be carried out during the festive period, citing “the control of run-off from the site and issues surrounding the protection of weather susceptible materials”.
Mr Brown said that officials have “challenged” the contractor –Aberdeen Roads Limited – “to mitigate the effects (of the delay) where possible”.
But Scottish Conservative MSP Peter Chapman, a North East Region MSP, said the delay “called into question” ministers’ handling of the project.
He said: “People in the north-east have been waiting for a long time for the Aberdeen bypass to open, and will be disappointed to hear about this substantial delay to a key section of the route.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The contractor, Aberdeen Roads Limited, has not completed seasonally dependant earthworks on the Balmedie-Tipperty section of the project in advance of this winter period.
“They will recommence these key earthworks after the winter period, which has a consequential impact on the planned opening date for the Balmedie to Tipperty section.
“The contractor has revised the Balmedie to Tipperty section date to open in line with the rest of the AWPR/B-T project.
“Sections of the scheme are already opened to traffic, for example at Aberdeen Airport – ahead of the contractor’s’ scheduled completion date – bringing benefits to the local area.”