Highland Council’s leadership say they have not been “consulted or asked” about A9 dualling in recent times, it has emerged.
Despite discussions taking place with various parties including contractors and at an A9 Crisis Summit in Inverness, there have been no information sessions with convenor Bill Lobban or leader Raymond Bremner.
Mr Bremner was not even told of the meeting discussing the A9, and Mr Lobban attended the meeting, but was not officially invited.
They say the lack of dialogue is not only “unusual”, but it also demonstrates the lack of urgency to take dualling works on the A9 forward.
Mr Bremner said he first heard plans for a 2025 deadline for the A9 dualling completion were not going ahead in 2018.
But it was not until some five years later – in February 2023 – before the scheme was officially derailed.
‘We knew about the A9 dualling not going ahead in 2018’
He said: “It is really disappointing that while everyone knew that the A9 dualling would not go ahead, it wasn’t until five years later that we were told the official news.
“Five more years wasted in coming up with a solution. Five more years of people having to be told their loved ones had died.”
He continued: “The one thing that the people in the Highlands need is a plan. If any plans are being discussed it seems strange the council leadership are not taking part.
“I am sure if there were discussions, my counterpart in Perth and Kinross Council would have told me.”
Mr Bremner demanded the road was upgraded to improve connectivity with the central belt. Without an upgrade, he said, it “starved the Highlands” of being on a level footing with the rest of the country.
“Not least, we need to take our products out of the Highlands to improve our own prosperity, and to bring the supplies into the area. It is ridiculous that things have not improved in all these years.”
He said he has been pushing the matter politically. “I had a recent meeting at which the first minister was also involved. I raised with him our single most important concerns – the A9 – and also ferries.
Safety measures ‘a piece of nonsense’
“Mr Yousaf asked me to write to him – which I did on July 1, and I have had a reply to say my request has been received.”
Convenor Bill Lobban said he was not convinced safety would be improved in this year on the road. This is despite £5 million in investment.
He describes the measures – that include a large neon sign – as “a piece of nonsense”.
He said: “We have not been consulted or asked – maybe at officer level that I don’t know about. But, I believe that neither the council leader nor the council convenor have been asked about the A9.
“I’m very disappointed not to be asked. I would have thought that automatically the transport secretary would have been in deep dialogue with the leadership of Highland Council.”
“The cost of this road is not in millions or billions of pounds but in the numbers of people taken away in body bags.
Ken Gowans, spokesman for economy and infrastructure, added: “There is a real will for the A9 dualling to be completed.”
What do Transport Scotland say?
A Transport Scotland spokesman stressed Highland councillors and officials would continue to receive updates on A9 upgrades.
He said the delivery of major infrastructure projects like the A9 dualling “follow several consecutive stages”.
These include development of proposals, public and stakeholder consultation, statutory processes, procurement of works contracts and detailed design and construction.
He added: “Stakeholder engagement is at the heart of this delivery process. We also engage with a wide range of communities and road users throughout the duration of a project.
“The current consultation is in relation to contractual and commercial issues. We have been in urgent dialogue with the construction sector to identify the best procurement option to deliver the remaining schemes.
“This is a complex exercise which looks at a number of factors and is expected to conclude in autumn 2023.”
He added the Parliament will then be updated on a new timescale for completion.”
The first minister has been asked to comment.