A9 dualling: SNP government was told five years ago that 2025 timescale ‘unachievable’

SNP leaders knew since 2018 that the target to dual the A9 by 2025 was “unachievable”, newly-released government papers suggest.

The significant new information came to light as part of a formal Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s pledge to dual the route between Inverness and Perth.

Evidence provided to the Scottish Parliament’s petitions committee reveals key ministers were made aware the deadline could not be met in November 2018.

But it was only in February this year that the government announced the 2025 target was no longer achievable due to economic pressures.

Campaigners are still waiting for a long-awaited update on the revised timetable for the remaining nine sections of the route.

On Wednesday, SNP government minister George Adam promised the statement would be delivered to parliament in the “coming days”.

‘Unachievable’

An extract from a November 2018 cabinet paper stated that the government intended to look at private finance options, rather than capital, for the remainder of the route.

It added: “The revised approach to delivery will mean the 2025 timescale is not achievable with the end date yet to be determined based on market appetite and the packaging of remaining projects.”

Meanwhile, a government paper from December 2021, indicated that the earliest completion date for the scheme would be 2032 for a privately financed option.

This increased to 2034 for a traditional capital financed option but both dates were subject to the availability of funding.

Very heavy traffic on the A9 between Tomatin and Moy. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

It was further revealed that last December officials presented Scottish ministers with two options for the future of the A9 programme.

The first option – which the government did not take – suggested pausing the duallng programme “in its entirety for an indefinite period”.

SNP government ministers decided to take a second option which involves progressing certain elements of the programme “while reviewing and updating the work to determine the most suitable procurement options”.

‘Spiralling costs and delays’

Jackson Carlaw, who is leading the Holyrood inquiry, said: “The evidence we’ve received is stark, revealing a piecemeal process, with concerns raised repeatedly about spiralling costs and delays to completion.

Jackson Carlaw MSP. Image: PA.

“It’s evident that the Scottish Government have known for a considerable length of time that the 2025 deadline was in jeopardy, however it’s less clear what action ministers have taken to address this.

“We will review all of the evidence we’ve received at our next meeting , to consider our next steps, including if further evidence is required from Transport Scotland officials or previous Transport Ministers.

“In the meantime, with 2024 rapidly approaching, we eagerly anticipate the Cabinet Secretary’s promised update on the A9 Dualling Project to Parliament at the earliest opportunity.”

Mr Carlaw said the committee will review the evidence it has received when it meets on December 20.

At that meeting, he said committee members will “consider our next steps, including if further evidence is required from Transport Scotland officials or previous transport ministers”.

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