Transport chiefs have been urged to accelerate work on long-awaited schemes to end traffic gridlock in Inverness.
Margaret Davidson, the leader of Highland Council, expressed “concern” last night about the rate of progress on a proposed flyover for the Kessock Bridge roundabout and the East Link development.
Both projects were included in the original £315 million Inverness City Region Deal, which was signed in 2017.
Official Scottish Government figures show that just £14.23m of the cash promised in the agreement – or 4.5% – has actually been spent to date.
Mrs Davidson insisted the various initiatives were progressing well, but suggested the Longman flyover and East Link could be moving faster.
The East Link involves creating two miles of new single carriageway road between the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road, close to its junction at Barn Church Road, and the B9006 Culloden Road at Inshes.
The Longman flyover, meanwhile, would aim to end the misery of motorists who get stuck at the Kessock Bridge roundabout, where the A9 Perth to Thurso road meets the A82 Inverness to Fort William route.
Asked about the progress on the City Region Deal projects, Mrs Davidson said: “They took a while to get going, mostly because it’s not straightforward.
“Before you can move, you have to do a business case and it has to be accepted, and sometimes it comes back and has to be modified.
“So there is ping pong going on for a while, but it’s starting to move away quite nicely now, particularly a lot of the smaller projects.”
However, she added: “If I had any concern it would be Transport Scotland and them getting on with the roads projects. That’s the area I’ve got most concern.
“It’s the flyover at the Kessock Bridge, which is what they say is needed, and the East Link.
“The East Link is starting to move better, but until I start to see the JCBs on the ground… I mean that opens up a much bigger area for housing and a couple school sites up the east of Inverness, and links everything into UHI.
“That would be a good Christmas gift, if I heard they were doing that.”
Last night, a Scottish Government spokeswoman insisted the City Region Deal was “already delivering for the area” through the construction of new, affordable homes for young people as well as the development of the Science Skills Academy in the first two years of the 10-year project.
She added: “Improving Longman junction is a key priority and having identified the preferred option for the scheme in June, Transport Scotland is taking forward the detailed development and assessment of the preferred option with a view to publishing draft orders next year.
“Plans for the Inshes to Smithton scheme are progressing with draft orders published in September for formal comment. Construction of both schemes can only commence if each is approved under the relevant statutory procedures and thereafter a timetable for their progress can be set.
“We will continue to push forward the preparation stages to deliver both schemes as soon as possible which when complete will benefit road users, local communities and visitors to the Highland capital.”