A96 (Dualling)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 30th September 2021.

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Photo of Tess White Tess White Conservative

5. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress with the dualling of the A96. (S6O-00229)

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is committed to improving the A96. The current plan is to fully dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen, but as part of the co-operation agreement with the Scottish Green Party, we have agreed to conduct a transparent evidence-based review of the programme, which will report by the end of 2022.

Photo of Tess White Tess White Conservative

Police Scotland data shows that, in the last three years, 195 people in the north-east have been involved in a crash involving a least one fatality. Despite the review and the safety concerns of local communities, and the minister’s comments, Green MSP Maggie Chapman has said that it will not be “viable” to fully dual the A96 route. Does the minister agree with Green MSP Maggie Chapman?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

Maggie Chapman, like any other MSP, is entitled to her view. As a Government minister, I am committed to the review process, which will determine how we take the project forward.

I will go back to the start of Tess White’s question. If she is implying that safety concerns along the route are somehow being ignored, that is reprehensible and untrue.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The traffic congestion that is experienced by residents in Nairn can be as bad as that which is experienced in Glasgow or Edinburgh, except that in Nairn there is only one road that citizens can use through the town—the A96. During the tourism season, delays of up to an hour can be experienced in getting from one end of the town to the other. Will the minister approve and commence initiation of the tender process for delivery of the preferred route that has been agreed for dualling the A96 between Inverness and Auldearn, including the Nairn bypass? Will he accept my invitation to meet local people and to hear for himself the strength of views and feelings on the matter?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I am happy to commit to making such a visit, although I am not in any way unaware of the strength of views on the matter, given the many conversations that I have had with Mr Ewing, who is a strong advocate for the project. I am sure that the member will very much welcome the fact that what is committed to on the A96 includes bypassing Nairn and dualling from Inverness to Nairn. However, as a former minister, Mr Ewing knows that such projects involve processes that have to be followed. That said, I assure him that we will move as quickly as we can to progress the work.