Nothing new on A96 from First Minister in Programme for Government
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FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf failed to shed light of A96 dualling project during his "Programme for Government" announcement today (September 5).
Mr Yousaf, during a nearly 35-minute speech, dedicated only one sentence to the A96, saying: "We are, of course, committed to improving the A96, including dualling the road from Inverness to Nairn with a Nairn bypass."
This was despite the First Minister, speaking to the Northern Scot in July, describing the dualling project as: "one of the, if not the issue, concerning people here in the north east.”
The only specific "improvement" mentioned – dualling between Inverness and Nairn – was already excluded from the looming A96 Corridor Review.
In July, the First Minister also said he expected the outcome of the A96 Corridor Review to be published shortly after the return of parliament from summer recess.
This delay was the latest of several, with an initial December 2022 release date slipping to the "the first half of 2023", which then became "summer", "later this summer", and now "autumn".
Mr Yousaf's statement today was the first parliamentary business since parliament returned.
Ahead of the Programme for Government announcement, we published a list of the Scottish Government's promises to Moray and the north east on the A96.
Reacting to the speech, Moray MP Douglas Ross said: "He mentions the A96, and we've gone from the SNP saying they would fully dual the A96 to saying there will be improvements.
"Now, I welcome the Nairn bypass and the improvements from Inverness to Nairn that's been mentioned, but the A96 goes from Inverness to Aberdeen.
"What about the rest of that route?
"Previously promised to be fully dualled, now we're only going to get improvements along the way."
Also published alongside the Programme for Government, were lists of policy priorities for individual Cabinet Secretaries over the next year.
In his letter to Cabinet Secretary for Transport Mairi McAllan, the First Minister said the Government will: "Undertake public consultation on the outcomes of the transparent evidence based review of the A96 Dualling Programme."
The Programme for Government document also claims the Scottish Government will "publish the review of the A96 Dualling Programme" – but fails to provide any indication of a date.
Ahead of the review's publication, the Scottish Government appears likely to fall short of a pledge within the SNP's 2021 manifesto, which said the party was "committed" to completing A96 dualling, "ensuring the road network between all Scottish cities is of dual carriageway standard.
"This should be seen within the context of our commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030."
Receiving a more prominent mention in Mr Yousaf's speech was the A9 dualling project.
After announcing that his Government would fully dual the road between Inverness and Aberdeen, a commitment he called "crystal clear", he then refused to provide a time when pushed by Mr Ross.
Commenting on the the First Minister's speech, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “The lack of detail in the statement is astonishing.
“The First Minister says his government is committed to improving the A96 – including dualling the road from Inverness to Nairn, with a Nairn bypass, and that his government will dual the A9 from Inverness to Perth.
"But there is absolutely no substance to the statement with no dates or timelines given.
“It’s sweet words from the First Minister to try to appease the people in the north but only real commitment, in the form of a detailed timeline for these works, will go anywhere close to satisfying the communities who use these roads daily.”
Scottish Conservative North East MSP Liam Kerr said: “Humza Yousaf has betrayed North East communities and businesses by not including the full dualling of the A96 in his Programme for Government – a promise the SNP made in 2011.
“His decision is obscene and is yet another year and another opportunity missed.
“This was a chance for Humza Yousaf to right the wrongs of previous First Ministers by upgrading the road between Aberdeen and Huntly but like the others, he has turned his back on the north east.
“The SNP continue to inexcusably ignore the reality that lives are being lost and put at risk in Aberdeenshire by their failure to take action on improving the A96.
“Residents have every right to be furious at the omission of this by an SNP-Green Government who want to demonise motorists and concentrate on the Central Belt rather than fully upgrade one of the most dangerous roads in Scotland.”