Political and business leaders in the north have joined forces to urge the Scottish Government to stand by their commitment to the dualling of the A9 and A96.
Local council and businesses from across Moray and the Highlands have written to Cabinet Secretaries Derek Mackay and Michael Matheson to request “unwavering assurance” of Scottish Government’s pledge to deliver upgrades on the two arterial routes.
The move comes after calls to the Scottish Government from the Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Green Party, to scrap the dualling plans ahead of the next Budget, which will be within the next two months.
However, the north and north-east councillors and business leaders hope their letter will highlight the benefits fully dualling the A96 and A9 would have for local residents and business.
SCDI’s Highlands and Islands director, Fraser Grieve said that there is “a lack of understanding of the impact the road has” and the upgrades are extremely important for the communities.
Mr Grieve said: “We too often fail to recognise the economic contribution of this region as the home of some of Scotland’s leading exports.
“The reliability of our transport network is vital to continued success and delivering these upgrades, along with other transport enhancements, will support the sustainability and competitiveness of this region.”
Councillor Allan Henderson, chairman of Hitrans, the regional transport partnership, added: “We understand it’s easy for some to simply call for a blanket end to road projects, but as we look to tackle climate change, we need to ensure that the right decisions are taken to connect our cities and towns, and support those living and working in rural areas.”
The Scottish Government has announced that work on the “ambitious” A9 dualling project is continuing, with design work being well underway and “good progress” being made on the section between Hardmuir and Fochabers.
There is also optional route assessment work being carried out between the Aberdeen and east of Huntly section and Reporters for the Public Local Inquiry have submitted reports on the Inverness to Nairn section to the Scottish Ministers.
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: “The Scottish Government is committed to dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness and the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen, underlining its commitment to connecting Scotland’s cities with a high quality transport system that will sustainable generate economic growth.”
‘Short-changing the far north’
Transport Scotland is being accused of ‘short-changing’ the far north in not proposing any new major upgrade to the trunk road north of Dornoch over the next 10 years.
Highland Councillor Matthew Reiss has hit out after being told details of the work being scheduled for the farthest north stretch of the A9 and the A99 between Latheron and Wick.
Mr Reiss said there appears to be no major schemes in the pipeline following the current £9 million upgrading of the A9 under way at Berriedale Braes.
“Nobody is shouting for a dual carriageway between Caithness and Dornoch but what they are proposing is just a joke,” he said.
“It’s laughable and I think the far north is being short-changed.”
In a response from Transport Scotland, he has been told it intends to spend £2 million a year over the next 10 years on road safety improvements in its north west area.
While happy that these schemes are being proposed, Mr Reiss has slammed the lack of any major works.
Transport Scotland road safety manager Derek Williamson said: “The A9 and A99 are vital lifeline routes for the far north of Scotland and support commerce, industry, education, health, tourism and the social wellbeing of all the communities they serve.
“We recognise this importance and since 2007, the Scottish Government has invested almost £221m in the maintenance of the A9 and £6.2m on the A99.”