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BUILD THE BYPASS: The Inverness Courier launches campaign for Nairn bypass

By Scott Maclennan

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Single file traffic lights in Nairn cause long tailbacks on A96. Picture: Gary Anthony.
Single file traffic lights in Nairn cause long tailbacks on A96. Picture: Gary Anthony.

Today, The Inverness Courier launches its Build the Bypass campaign to ensure that this Inverness to Auldearn section of the A96 is not forgotten by the Scottish Government.

The launch of the new initiative coincides with new figures released by PA News showing that the north has the lowest number of dualled roads in the UK – just 0.6 per cent of Moray is dualled and just 1.9 per cent of the Highlands.

Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing has issued his own call throwing his weight behind the move, saying there are good reasons for starting the long-promised work sooner rather than later.

Fergus Ewing MSP. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Fergus Ewing MSP. Picture: Callum Mackay..

His concern is that it is now more than six weeks since the First Minister Humza Yousaf promised an update on the A96 from the transport minister saying that the government is “duty bound” to keep the people of the Highlands informed.

The campaigning MSP is determined that the people of Nairn no longer “feel a bit like Cinderella – waiting for Prince Charming in the form of the First Minister to ‘take them to the ball’ by finally delivering on the 12-year-old” bypass promise.

The fate of the A96 is in the balance and no one seriously believes the Scottish Government will dual the road by its own deadline of 2030 – particularly as the review of the A96 corridor is yet to report.

Meanwhile anyone travelling in and around Nairn will be well aware of the issues affecting the town related to lengthy delays, as well those travelling to and from Inverness.

Now with hundreds of millions pouring into the Port of Ardersier and Inverness Airport developing fast, the need for better access routes is growing rather than diminishing.

So what is to be done?

Mr Ewing argues that the dualling work on the A96 and A9 should be done at the same time, for “fairness, to avoid disruption and to win back trust of the people”.

He has campaigned passionately for the safer dualled roads, revealing to the Courier that he is writing to the Scottish Government to seek assurances that this will be done and explaining why this is a “must” and a priority.

“Work to dual the A9 and the A96 must be done at the same time – for three very good reasons,” he said.

“First, on grounds of basic fairness, people in Nairn, town and country, who have waited for a decade for nothing to happen on the promised Nairn bypass, cannot wait till the A9 dualling is completed before the bypass is finally built.

“Were that to happen, they would have seen precisely zero happening for two decades or more. People in Nairn feel a bit like Cinderella – waiting for Prince Charming – in the form of the First Minister to ‘take them to the ball’ by finally delivering on the 12-year-old promises to provide a Nairn bypass.

“The second reason to do the work concurrently is this: if the A9 dualling project is to be done swiftly, as it must, various sections of that road must be constructed together – in other words built concurrently as opposed to one section at a time. It would be possible for example, for two sections on the A9 to be done at the same time.

“But this will inevitably cause significant disruption. To avoid excessive disruption, and the unthinkable scenario of even having to close the A9 altogether, the construction work on the A9 and the A96 must be done at the same time. This would substantially reduce the disruption by spreading it across the Highland road network.

“The third reason why work on both roads must be done together is this: if the Scottish Government are to delay for many, many more years, dualling even of the very first of the sections of the A96, then people in the Highlands and the north east will say to them – and the SNP – ‘enough is enough, you’ve had two decades to deliver on your promises made in 2011 and you’ve failed. We don’t trust you any more.’

“That’s what I am hearing from people. That’s the stark reality. My party leader may not want to hear that, but I am spelling it out nonetheless.”

A government spokesperson said: “As the First Minister confirmed during the statement to Parliament on the Programme for Government on 5 September, we are also fully committed to making improvements to the A96.

“This includes dualling the Inverness to Nairn section, including the Nairn bypass, which already has ministerial consent following a public local inquiry.

"We are continuing to progress the significant and intensive work required to prepare for publication of Made Orders, including the Compulsory Purchase Order, with a view to completing the statutory process as soon as possible.

"Delivery of the scheme can only commence if approved under the relevant statutory authorisation process.”

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