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Here’s how communities along the A96 react to Green claims the dualling project won’t happen

We spoke to people in Elgin, Huntly and Alves areas, and heard thoughts on importance of Keith, Nairn and Inverness improvements.

The SNP promised to dual the road by 2030 but construction has yet to begin. Image: DC Thomson.
The SNP promised to dual the road by 2030 but construction has yet to begin. Image: DC Thomson.

Community voices in the north-east and Moray have been left angered by Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater’s remarks around the future of A96 dualling.

The former government minister is being criticised for not appreciating the transport needs of the region after implying full dualling should not go ahead.

Ms Slater told Humza Yousaf at Holyrood, just before he left office, that the A96 climate review will “inevitably” say no to full dualling for the “sake of future generations”.

It sparked anger among community groups, councillors and the business sector who say the project will make the route safer and deliver economic benefits.

Former first minister Alex Salmond told a Holyrood committee last week that Slater’s “taunt” to the first minister showed she seemed “pretty confident” of a “negative assessment of some kind”.

The SNP promised to dual the road by 2030 but construction has yet to begin.

A96: ‘No longer fit for purpose’

Alastair Kennedy, chair of Elgin Community Council, said it makes people “very angry”.

He added: “The road is no longer fit for purpose. They’re trying to get people to use public transport. But buses in the region are not reliable.

“If they (Green leadership) came here and stayed, they would know it needs dualled.

“The Greens would like everyone to turn electric. We still need the road for that.”

He added parts of the road are “quite dangerous”.

Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater. Image: Shutterstock.

The long overdue A96 corridor review is now almost a year and a half late.

Roads agency Transport Scotland says draft outcomes from the review will be consulted on in the “coming months” before a final decision can be reached.

The Greens opposition to the project was seen as a potential roadblock but now they have left government, the SNP has no one to hide behind when money is tight.

Mr Kennedy, who is also chairman of the Joint Community Councils of Moray, said they want the government to “stick the review” and deliver dualling.

“We’ve had enough of these delays. I’ve never spoken to one person that doesn’t want it upgraded”, he added.

‘Not going to happen now’

Jim Mountford, chair of Heldon Community Council, which covers Alves, would also like to see the road fully dualled.

But he is convinced it’s “not going to happen now”.

The community councillor said the government must prioritise bypassing Nairn, which is not subject to the ongoing review, and at Keith.

Map of the A96 dualling route between Aberdeen and Inverness. Image: DC Thomson.

In March, construction plans for dualling the road between Inverness and Nairn finally moved a step closer after years of delays, with the publication of made orders.

The section between Inverness and Nairn was always exempt from the review.

Mr Mountford believes there has been an attitude of “one size fits all” which fails to take into account the needs of different geographies.

He claimed the savings made, in terms of carbon emissions, from not dualling the road are “minimal” in a global context.

Communities at risk

SNP councillor Gwyneth Petrie described Ms Slater’s intervention as “disappointing”.

The Huntly councillor spoke up in favour of A96 dualling at the SNP’s last party conference in Aberdeen in October.

She told the P&J that as a north-east representative, she has “always been quite slightly sceptical” of the SNP’s former power-sharing deal with the Greens.

Cllr Petrie added: “The geography of the north-east means we will never be able to reduce car usage to the point where you don’t need to dual the road.

SNP councillor Gwyneth Petrie in Huntly Square. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson.

“We can move to electric or hydrogen vehicles but we still need a road that meets modern standards.

“We need to see what the review says but we have to look economically at how the communities survive.

“Huntly has seen a huge downturn in average income and deprivation is going the wrong way.”


Concerns are also being felt among the business sector locally who say it would be “unfathomable” for the project not to go ahead.

Mike Duncan, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses in the north-east, said: “Ask business owners in Nairn, Moray or the north-east if they’ll ever see the dualling of the A96, and nine times out of ten they’ll reply with: ‘Not in my lifetime!’.

“This standard response comes from a generation-spanning belief that despite Scottish Government reports, investigations, and numerous commitments, they will continually be let down by decision-makers in Edinburgh who fail to understand the importance of this economic artery to the local business community.”

He added: “It’s unfathomable that the business community of the north-east could be let down yet again should the project to fully dual the A96 be cancelled altogether.”

An overtaking lane on the A96 near Glen of Foudland, just south of Huntly. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson.

Greens transport spokesman Mark Ruskell MSP favours a “targeted approach” for the A96 which prioritises safety, invests in improving dangerous junctions, finishes the bypasses, and improves public transport, including backing the Campaign for North East Rail.

He said: “We’re in a climate emergency now. It’s already bringing wildfires, floods, drought, heatwaves and storms that take lives and do immeasurable damage to communities and our economy.

“With transport already our largest source of emissions, the response can’t be to waste billions of pounds building more roads that will lock in private car use and do little to improve safety.”

‘Committed’ to improving A96

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “As we have made clear on a number of occasions the Scottish Government is committed to improving the A96.

“The current plan is to fully dual the route and as part of this process we are undertaking a transparent, evidence-based review of the programme.  This is sensible good governance for major investment of this kind.

“The significant interest in the review’s initial consultation, with nearly 4,600 responses, generated 11,000 options to improve the corridor and it’s only right that appropriate time has been taken to examine and fully appraise these.

“It is expected that the draft outcomes from the review will be consulted on in the coming months, before a final decision can be reached.”