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North MP calls for A9 dualling project to be extended to Invergordon for freeport jobs boom

Jamie Stone has written to Holyrood to ask the Scottish Government to examine the possibility.

MP Jamie Stone on a bridge over the A9 at Invergordon
MP Jamie Stone wants the A9 dualling plan to go further north

The A9 dualling project should be extended to Invergordon to get ahead of the Cromarty Firth freeport boom, a Highland MP has said.

Jamie Stone – who represents Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – has written to the Scottish Government to ask them to look at the possibility.

The dualling project has been hit by delays and the recent revelation that the 2025 target date for completion will be missed.

Meanwhile, the newly-agreed Cromarty Firth freeport deal has been predicted to bring thousands of jobs to the area.

If the freeport pans out as many hope, the added infrastructure would put a serious strain on Invergordon.

Mp Jamie Stone overlooking the A9
North MP Jamie Stone at the A9 near Invergordon.Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Is Invergordon ready for the freeport?

Lib Dem Mr Stone believes there’s an opportunity for the region to get ahead of the curve.

He said: “With the freeport under way, it is crucial that Holyrood takes into consideration the inevitably significant increase in traffic on this section of the A9.

“The freeport is projected to bring about a boom in jobs, investment and infrastructure.

“But with the roads in the condition that they are, Invergordon and the surrounding area will struggle with the added pressure.”

The A9 is dualled north of Inverness, but only until the Tore roundabout.

There is a sense of optimism in Invergordon after the freeport announcement. Image: Stuart Findlay/DC Thomson

Dualling until the Dalmore junction that leads to Invergordon would only be another 13 miles.

The Tomich junction, which also leads to the town, would only be 16 miles.

However, there is the matter of the Cromarty Bridge along the way. Upgrading that would be a significant – and costly – challenge.

Mr Stone added: “There is much more of the A9 north of Inverness that is still in need of dualling.

“I hope that, especially with the freeport advancing, the Scottish Government realise the urgency of this.

“Dualling between the Tore roundabout and Invergordon is a good place to start.”

Highland road network needs investment

The SNP’s own Fergus Ewing has been an outspoken critic of the A9 dualling failure this year.

The Inverness and Nairn MSP said the delay has “created anger in the Highlands on a scale I have never seen in three decades in politics”.

He’s hopeful of further investment in the future. But he said the priority now must be to complete the work that’s already been promised.

“We must first deliver on our promises to dual the A9 from Perth to Inverness,” Mr Ewing said.

Fergus Ewing has been critical of slow progress on the A9 dualling project. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“And that’s a very long-standing pledge. If that takes place, then I hope we can see further improvements on the A9.”

David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, wants to see a significant investment in the north’s road network.

But while he’d support the idea of extending the dualling project in principle, he’s unsure if it would be the best way to spend money.

He said: “It’s vitally important that roads are upgraded north and west of Inverness. But is the right investment just dualling the A9 to Invergordon?

“I’d argue that our road network is falling apart as it is. It’s long overdue for an overhaul.

“It’s more important to look at it as a whole and improve the bits that need it the most.”

Road safety and climate change are higher on Holyrood’s to-do list

In the sh0rt to medium term, it looks unlikely that the Scottish Government will add to its A9 backlog.

It’s a workload that is already running well behind schedule.

But transport minister Kevin Stewart did reveal that access to the port was examined in a recent government appraisal.

The second strategic project review examined the government’s investment programme over the next 20 years and was published last December.

Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart says many of his generation of SNP high-ups owe much to Allan Angus, whose funeral First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attended on Tuesday. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.
Kevin Stewart said the government’s priority was on adapting the network to deal with climate change. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

Mr Stewart said: “The conclusion of that work identified that the priorities for investment in Scotland’s trunk road network are on improving road safety, reliability and adapting the network to deal with the challenge of climate change – rather than any large-scale interventions for the A9 north of Inverness.”

Depending on the success of the freeport though, that could change.

The transport minister added: “My officials will continue to assess the transport infrastructure needs around access to the ports on the Cromarty Firth as the plans come forward.”