The SNP leadership is being accused of “delaying tactics” after defending a review into long-promised plans to dual the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness.
The backlash came as Deputy First Minister Shona Robison said it was the “right thing to do” to carry out a public consultation on the future of the A96 corridor.
The SNP minister was challenged at Holyrood after we last week revealed the road scheme’s future is being delayed yet again, likely into next year.
The findings will no longer be reported back by autumn – the third delay to date – and almost a year on from when it was first expected.
On top of the regional anger at the failure to dual the whole route, SNP Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing quizzed the deputy first minister on what year the Nairn bypass will be constructed – but she failed to give a date.
Ms Robison, who was standing in for Humza Yousaf at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, said she expects advice from transport officials on the findings of the A96 review “before the end of the year”.
She added: “Following consideration by ministers, there will be a consultation on the outcomes and an update on timings for this which will be provided by the cabinet secretary in due course.”
The review was ordered after the Greens joined a power-sharing deal with the SNP in summer 2021 with the Greens against the route being fully dualled.
‘Right thing to do’
The deputy first minister said the level of responses to the consultation – more than 11,000 – suggested it was the “right thing to do”.
She reiterated the government’s “current plan” is to fully dual the route but highlighted the ongoing review of the plans.
The SNP minister, who also holds the finance brief, took aim at the UK Tory government for cuts to the Scottish Government’s capital budget which she said is “required to build roads and other infrastructure projects”.
Mr Kerr, who asked Ms Robison to confirm if the route would be fully dualled, said: “Instead of trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the north-east with delaying tactics like this review, the SNP government should concentrate more on getting spades into the ground to deliver on these life-saving upgrades which they pledged in 2011.”
Meanwhile, Mr Ewing asked the deputy first minister what year the construction of the Nairn bypass will be completed.
In response, Ms Robison said the bypass already has ministerial consent and that transport officials hope to complete the statutory process “as soon as possible”.
Mr Ewing told the P&J: “Surely the Scottish Government must have a plan as to when the Nairn by pass will be constructed ? Today’s answer was very worrying because the DFM failed to answer a simple question.
“I am pressing the Scottish Government on this as a priority. They must deliver- or lose support in the north.”