Transport Scotland has been accused of giving preferential treatment to A9 campaigners over a group in Moray because they are constituents of the Deputy First Minister.
Residents in the Perthshire communities of Dunkeld and Birnam were given co-creative status to help guide the route for the A9 Inverness road.
Campaigners in Forres want the same status to help plan a bypass for the town as part of the upgraded A96 Aberdeen road.
The action group held talks with Transport Scotland earlier this month when it announced its preferred route between Hardmuir and Fochabers.
Transport Scotland has denied there is any preferential treatment and insists the “novel” approach was used for Dunkeld and Birnam due to the area being “relatively constrained”.
However, Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie has said it is unacceptable that the two communities are being treated differently – believing a possible reason to be John Swinney representing Perthshire North.
He said: “The Scottish Government has committed to dualling both the A9 and A96.
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“I have consistently opposed this unnecessary expenditure, which will only make it harder to meet our climate change obligations.
“The constituents of the Deputy First Minister were given the opportunity to work with Transport Scotland to develop the proposed A9 route and the Forres community should have the same opportunity.
“It’s simply not good enough that the Deputy First Minister’s constituents are treated preferentially to mine.”
A co-creative process involves locals working with Transport Scotland to establish the best route before a public vote is held.
The preferred route for the upgraded A96, which runs to the north of Forres and the south of Elgin, was unveiled this month.
Nearly 1,500 people attended four public exhibitions to view the proposals and have their say.
And yesterday, Transport Scotland continued to encourage people to voice their opinions on the proposed route of the road.
A spokesman explained that work was currently on-going to establish how successful the co-creative process has been in Perthshire.
He said: “There is certainly no question of any preferential treatment.
“The outcome of the process has identified the community’s preferred option for dualling and this option is currently subject to an on-going scoping exercise including meeting with the residents that are potentially affected by the construction of this option as well as the key stakeholders.
“A full evaluation of the process can only be completed once we know how co-creative can support the promotion of the scheme through statutory procedures.”