A96 Dualling (Inverness to Aberdeen)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 20 February 2024.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on whether the A96 will be dualled from Inverness to Aberdeen. (S6T-01797)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

We remain committed to improving the A96, including dualling the road from Inverness to Nairn and the Nairn bypass, despite a worst-case scenario for Scotland following the United Kingdom autumn statement. I am acutely aware of the importance of the route to those who live along the corridor, and our current plans are to fully dual the route.

As part of that process, we are undertaking the corridor review, which, through initial consultation, generated 11,000 improvement options. It is only right that those are fully appraised, and I expect that draft outcomes from the review will be ready for final public consultation in the coming months, before a final decision is reached.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

In 2011, the Scottish National Party promised that the A96 would be dualled in full by 2030—no ifs, no buts and no climate corridor review.

In the past four years, 11 people have been killed and 69 have been seriously injured on the A96, and two more lives were tragically lost just last week. It turns out that this Government has spent just £800,000 on road safety improvements in that time but £5 million on its climate review. Does the cabinet secretary have any concerns that spending more than five times as much on a climate review as on saving people’s lives might suggest that this central belt-focused Government has its priorities wrong?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I express my condolences to the families following the two fatalities in the accident on 12 February at Redhill, near Inverness. I can relay that, only last year, £610,000 was spent on road maintenance and safety and that, in total, £31 million has been spent on the development and planning, and all the necessary design work, for the dualling aspect in particular of the Inverness to Nairn part of the road.

However, as we have already heard in answers today, if we have a UK Government that has not invested in infrastructure and has cut the infrastructure budget not just for Scotland but for the rest of the UK—[

Interruption

.]

The Presiding Officer:

Members, let us hear the minister.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

—and if we also have a Labour Party that would want to continue that financial position, it puts capital infrastructure, whether it is in the central belt, the north of Scotland, the Highlands or the north-east, in a very difficult position. I will continue the job of ensuring that the review develops and that the important work on the A96 Inverness to Nairn bypass continues.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

The question was not about how much has been spent but about the £800,000 that has been spent on road safety improvements. That is pitiful.

Over the weekend,

The Northern Scot reported that the promise to dual the A96 by 2030 was “abandoned” more than three years ago. Responses to freedom of information requests suggest that the disgraced former cabinet secretary for transport, Michael Matheson, ensured that the public was not told of that. Will the minister say, clearly and concisely, whether the Scottish National Party will dual the A96 in full by 2030, as was promised? Yes or no?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The SNP Government will respect the review that is taking place and all the thousands of people who have had input into that. [

Interruption

.]

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Our current plans are to dual the A96, and the dualling between Inverness and Nairn is a particular priority, as the member well knows.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

On 19 February 2021, the then cabinet secretary for transport, Michael Matheson, announced that the made orders for the Nairn bypass and the dualled section of the A96 from Inverness would be issued that summer. Three years on, that still has not happened. Has the three-year delay been deliberate, as a means of ensuring that the Scottish Government does not have to spend the money on delivering on its promise of a Nairn bypass, which my constituents have waited more than 15 years for? If the minister refutes that proposition, will she now publish a detailed plan setting out when construction will begin and when it will be completed?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

As I advised Mr Ewing during our recent meeting, Transport Scotland is pressing forward with the significant work—and it is significant work—that is required to publish the made orders for dualling the A96 from Inverness to Nairn, including the Nairn bypass. I look forward to that happening in the first quarter of 2024. That also includes provision for the compulsory purchase orders, with a view to our completing the statutory process for the scheme.

As the member well knows, delivery of the scheme can commence only if approved under the relevant statutory authorisation process. Thereafter, a timetable for progress can be set in line with available budgets.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

The minister has again given a commitment to dual the A96 from Inverness to Nairn, including the Nairn bypass. However, I was surprised to discover through an FOI request that, thus far, only one piece of land, at Milton of Culloden, has been bought and that no other compulsory purchase orders have been made. How much land will the minister require to be purchased for that work, and when will that be completed?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

As I have said in previous answers, there is a statutory, staged process in relation to the work that is required, and the made orders will enable the compulsory purchase orders for that section to be delivered. We expect to announce that in the first quarter of 2024, which is very soon indeed.