A change of leadership at Holyrood is unlikely to scupper the A9 dualling project, the Press and Journal can reveal.
The next Holyrood election in 2026 is shaping up to be the most closely-fought affair in years, according to recent opinion polls.
But all but one of the main runners and riders have now confirmed they are committed to dualling between Inverness and Perth.
First Minister Humza Yousaf said earlier this year that completing the project was a “cast-iron guarantee”.
Anxious wait for new timetable
The latest opinion poll from Redfield and Wilton Strategies still has the SNP out in front.
But at 33%, its support has sunk to its lowest level since March 2011.
The surprise slump has increased the likelihood of another party gaining the keys to Bute House for the first time since 2007.
That could place a question mark over the future of the long-awaited dualling project.
However, both Labour and the Tories have confirmed they are committed to finishing it.
Highland and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “Scottish Labour fully supports dualling this deadly road.
“The SNP’s failure to deliver on their promise to dual the A9 is complete betrayal of the Highlands and a sign of their gross incompetence.
“Lives are being put in danger while this vital project is kicked into the long grass.”
‘This project needs to be completed in full’
It seems only the remote prospect of a Green majority would threaten the dualling project eventually being completed.
While the party has enjoyed progressively more success in the last few Scottish elections, it still only contested 12 out of 73 constituencies.
The Tories currently hold the second highest number of seats at Holyrood. The party is also committed to completing the project.
Shadow transport minister Graham Simpson said: “We are fully committed to dualling both the A9 as quickly as possible.
“These projects would be a top priority for the Scottish Conservatives if we had responsibility for them.”
The Lib Dems are also committed to completing the project.
While the prospect of them being the biggest party at Holyrood is currently remote, they could wind up king-makers if none of the three main parties are able to get over the line on their own.
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone said: “Across the Highlands we have seen a steady drumbeat of road deaths this year but progress on tackling dangerous roads like the A9 has slowed to a crawl.
“This project needs to be completed in full.”
Greens firm on opposition to full dualling
Pressure has been building on the SNP since former transport minister Jenny Gilruth announced in February that completing the dualling project by 2025 was “simply no longer achievable”.
It remains committed to completing the project. And its supporters point out that the SNP was the party that made the commitment in the first place.
The Conservatives – in the pre-devolution era – as well as Labour and the Lib Dems in the first two terms of the Scottish Parliament all previously resisted calls to dual the A9.
It seems now that the Greens are the only main Scottish political party not committed to completing the project.
Last month, transport spokesman Mark Ruskell said the time is right for the entire project to be looked at again.
Despite recent backlash, Highland Green MSP Ariane Burgess is sticking to her guns on the matter.
She said: “Improvements are urgently needed to the A9. The Scottish Greens want to prioritise new road safety infrastructure alongside targeted improvements and dualling to certain sections where it’s absolutely needed.
“Financial pressures and the climate emergency mean that prioritisation is crucial when it comes to transport spending.
“I’d like to see a focus on improving the Highland Main Line to create a sustainable commuter network for Inverness.”