– in the Scottish Parliament on 24th November 2022.
5. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress on the A96 appraisal. (S6O-01593)
As I said when I updated Parliament during the recent debate on essential road improvements, we are undertaking a transparent evidence-based review of the A96 corridor. The recent public consultation received nearly 5,000 responses, which generated more than 11,000 suggestions and potential opportunities for the route. Rightly, it has taken more time than was originally planned to look at and appraise all those options, but a report on the public consultation and the initial appraisal will be published by the end of the year.
I thank the minister for her answer and for her time this week in meeting me with her officials.
I am keen to know how the review report that will be published by the end of the year will show the strength of public feeling about the options. As the minister knows, a great deal of work was done on the part of the route that would bypass Inverurie as part of the A96 dualling plans. That work involved a lot of public engagement and resulted in a decision to progress with the orange route, west of Inverurie, which was welcomed by my constituents. What is the status of that route, given the pause in its development to allow the A96 review to take place, and how might the extensive work on that section of the route be progressed in the light of the review, which I appreciate will not be published for a few weeks.
I welcomed the opportunity to meet Gillian Martin yesterday, and I recognise and understand her strong constituency interest in the route. It is worth saying that the substantial consultation that she mentioned and the development work on the dualling programme that was undertaken previously will not go to waste. They are proving to be extremely important in informing our understanding of the route and in supporting the evidence-based review, which—as I mentioned—will end at the end of this year, in a few weeks.
On the member’s point about the strength of public feeling, I assure her that the unprecedented level of responses that were received during the consultation clearly shows the importance of the A96 corridor to the people who live and work in the north and north-east of Scotland. That feedback will be captured in the public consultation report, which will be published in the coming weeks.
I understand the member’s constituency interest and the importance of the matter to her constituents. Therefore, I have asked the review’s project team to meet her in her constituency to disseminate some of the review results when they are published.
The consultation closed in June and, as we have heard, there were nearly 5,000 responses. If it is being done properly, most of the responses will be from people in the north-east and most, if not all, will say, “Dual it.” We surely owe that to the 13 people who have been killed and the 180 who have been injured in just the past three years.
If the Government does not follow through on more than a decade of promises, people across the north-east will regard that as an outright abdication of responsibility. After the consultation is published, showing that the people of the north-east demand it, how quickly will dualling of the entire A96 commence?
As Liam Kerr knows, I recognise his constituency interest in the matter; he regularly asks questions on the topic.
It is important that we get it right.
I do not want to prejudge the outcome of the appraisal, which will be published in the coming weeks, but the current plan is to fully dual the route. However, we have committed to conducting a transparent evidence-based review, so I would, as I offered to Ms Martin, be more than happy to arrange for the consultants who undertook the review to meet Mr Kerr to disseminate the results.
It is hugely important that we get this right for local communities. We had a vast response on the options that were put to the local community—we have more than 11,000 suggested options to consider and they have taken the consultants some time to work through. However, I recognise Mr Kerr’s strength of feeling on the matter, so I am more than happy to ensure that the consultants engage with him. When we have the data, I will come back to Parliament with a timeline and an update on the next steps in relation to dualling the A96.