John Swinney yesterday raised hopes that work to improve Aberdeen’s Haudagain roundabout could start as early as next year – only for them to be quickly dashed by his own staff.
The finance secretary announced to great fanfare that “work will begin in 2016-17” at the notorious junction.
But that was almost immediately refuted by Transport Scotland – the body responsible for delivering the £30million project – who said construction would not begin until the end of 2017 at the earliest.
The Scottish Government’s draft budget also makes no mention of any construction work, remarking only that funds would be made available to “progress design and development”.
However, delivering his budget, Mr Swinney said: “In light of the excellent progress on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, I am confirming that work will begin in 2016-17 on the improvements to the Haudagain roundabout.”
That announcement, which met loud cheers in the chamber, was also lauded by SNP staff and described as “welcome boost” to the city by local MSP Mark McDonald.
Local SNP MP Kirsty Blackman said: “It is great news to hear that the Haudagain Roundabout improvements will be starting earlier and will bring great relief to Aberdonians.
“The Scottish Government is delivering for Aberdeen and bringing forward an absolutely vital bit of infrastructure.”
But when questioned by the Press and Journal, a spokesman for Transport Scotland said the schedule for works had not changed and that construction would only begin when the Aberdeen bypass was finished – predicted to be at the end of 2017.
He said: “The funding announcement enables essential preparation work to be taken forward on this important scheme and, subject to completion of the necessary statutory procedures, commence the procurement to find a contractor to start construction work to improve Haudagain roundabout following completion of the AWPR.”
Last night, North East MSPs rounded on Mr Swinney, accusing him of “pretending government plans have changed when they have not”.
Scottish Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald raised a point of order against the Finance Secretary demanding he clarify his remarks.
He said: “John Swinney appears to be in grave danger of misleading parliament and the public in the north-east.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes added: “John Swinney made it seem that the diggers would be firing up their engines before Christmas but the truth is that work on the Haudagain is no closer today than it was yesterday.
“This project has been delayed and delayed again and to suggest that work is now proceeding full-steam ahead is simply not true.”
But a Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “Mr Swinney made clear in his statement to parliament that he was ‘confirming that work will begin in 2016-17’. The published budget document is equally clear that this budget will ‘progress design and development work on the A90 Haudagain roundabout’. This work is critical to ensuring we are able to start construction work to improve Haudagain roundabout following completion of the AWPR.”