Exclusive:A9 dualling: Transport secretary Fiona Hyslop refuses to confirm Perth to Inverness road will definitely be dualled by 2035

The A9 project has already been delayed by ten years

Scotland’s newly-appointed transport secretary has refused to guarantee the A9 will definitely be dualled by 2035, in an admission critics said would leave affected communities “utterly dismayed”.

Last year the Scottish Government was forced to admit its original plan to dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness by 2025 would not be met, and instead officially delayed the project by a decade.

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However, in an exclusive interview with The Scotsman’s politics podcast The Steamie, transport secretary Fiona Hyslop said while the plan was to dual the road by 2035, “things can happen”.

Dualling the A9 is severely delayed. Image: John Devlin/National World.Dualling the A9 is severely delayed. Image: John Devlin/National World.
Dualling the A9 is severely delayed. Image: John Devlin/National World.

When asked if she could guarantee all construction would be finished by this new target date, Ms Hyslop said: “We’ve got a clear and detailed plan set. I do know events can happen, we understand that.

“[2035] is absolutely the plan, but obviously in terms of events, I’m going to be sensible and say ‘things can happen’. But we have the most detailed plan that is really ambitious for the people in the communities of the Highlands.”

Ms Hyslop, who was elevated to the full Cabinet position last month, said the new plan would see a 50 per cent improvement in dualling by 2030, 80 per cent by 2033, and 100 per cent by 2035.

The dark purple sections showing the dualled sections highlight how much work is still to be done. (Photo by Transport Scotland)The dark purple sections showing the dualled sections highlight how much work is still to be done. (Photo by Transport Scotland)
The dark purple sections showing the dualled sections highlight how much work is still to be done. (Photo by Transport Scotland)

The minister said the Government was shifting the type of contracts it used so the risk was more on ministers rather than those carrying out the dualling work.

But Graham Simpson, the Scottish Conservative's transport spokesman, said of Ms Hyslop’s comments: “Those communities who rely on the A9 will be utterly dismayed by this admission. They have been repeatedly betrayed by the SNP’s broken promises to dual this crucial yet deadly road.

“Just months after the shameful confirmation that completion would be a full decade late, Fiona Hyslop is now seeking further wriggle room. This is symptomatic of the SNP’s contempt towards remote and rural Scotland.

“As with the SNP’s ferries scandal, just when you think the delays can’t get any worse, they do.”

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Ministers were forced to admit back in February last year their long-standing pledge to complete this project by 2025 would not be met. Only two sections of dual carriageway, totalling 11 miles, have been built since the SNP made its 2025 pledge 12 years ago, with some 70 miles still remaining.

The Scottish Conservatives say the existing rate of progress means construction could take over a century to complete.

By 2008 prices, the project was estimated to cost around £3 billion – some £4.7bn in 2024 terms – and Ms Hyslop said around £450 million had been spent to date.

The 112-mile stretch of the A9 between Perth and Inverness claimed 13 lives in 2022 – its highest death toll in 20 years.

During her interview with The Steamie, Ms Hyslop refuted claims the project would have been given more priority if it had been in the Central Belt, and said the Government had not treated A9 communities as a “forgotten backwater”.

A lead campaigner pushing for the Government to dual the road said trust would not be regained in the Highlands until work physically started on the road.

Laura Hansler, who has a petition going through Holyrood to get ministers to commit to their promises on the A9, said she was “very sceptical” about the 2035 target.

The Kincraig resident said: “I think if we look at what they’ve achieved in the last 16 years, it doesn’t give you the greatest confidence. We’ve had 11 miles dualled and they weren’t the most complex of miles. There are more complex sections out there yet to be looked at.

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“We’re all very sceptical and I think a lot of confidence has been lost in the villages and further afield in Scotland with the whole project. Everybody’s got a right to feel that way and the communities are very jaded by it all.

“I have said to Fiona [Hyslop] herself, until the diggers are actually on the ground and until turf is actually getting cut, only then will you start to regain any form of trust within these communities.”

Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Tories MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, whose constituency covers stretches of the A9, said: “These latest comments from the transport secretary, that the revised date of 2035 cannot be guaranteed, will just enrage them further. Too many lives have been lost on this road, and every year that goes by without the dualling project being completed puts more at risk.

"We must see a firm commitment to a completion timetable and not more slippage and delays.”



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