A9 dualling: Alex Salmond says 'political will' to complete project was lost after he left government

Former first minister Alex Salmond says the “political will” to dual the A9 was lost after he stepped down in 2014.

Mr Salmond gave evidence to Holyrood’s citizen participation and public petitions committee on Wednesday morning into the project to dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness, which is now a decade behind schedule.  The project was originally planned in 2011 when Mr Salmond was First Minister, and was due to be completed in full by next year.

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However, the project has been mired with delays and is now not due to be completed until 2035. 

Mr Salmond told MSPs he believed a change in government priorities after 2014 resulted in the delay to the A9 dualling project. He said when he was first minister, he considered the project “challenging, but achievable”.

Mr Salmond, now leader of the Alba Party, was asked by David Torrance, SNP MSP for Kirkcaldy, what he understood by officials saying the 2025 completion date was challenging.

He said: “I think that’s from a ministerial briefing of April 2012 and the phrase, if I remember right, is ‘challenging, but achievable’. I would expect it to be challenging because if you take it as a whole, it’s the biggest construction project in Scottish history, so clearly that’s challenging.

“Also Mr Neil was setting the pace so it would be ambitious, but achievable because as Mr Neil told you in evidence, he took the precaution of saying to the officials what is the best possible date that is achievable and coming up with the 2025 date. So challenging and achievable, I would expect it to be challenging and I would expect it to be achievable.”

Mr Torrance asked: “Were you ever advised that this date could not be met by any officials?” Mr Salmond replied: “No, I was not.”

The former first minister said the project was on schedule between 2011 and 2014.

Mr Salmond had earlier said faults in the project only emerged after he stepped down as first minister after the 2014 independence referendum.

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He said in recent years the power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens was a “significant factor” in the project being stalled, but stressed the party “can’t take all the blame”.

Mr Salmond told the BBC: “The A9 is a very large project, it is the equivalent of three Queensferry Crossings, but you don’t have to do it all at once. The original timetable for 2025 had it in 11 chunks, so you were not taking the whole meal at once, it was divided up into digestible elements.

“It can be done - this is Scotland, this is infrastructure that is capable of going forward.

“There have been various road projects such as the M74, the Borders Railway, the M8 and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, highly significant and expensive capital projects all successfully completed. But at some point the political imperative to dual the A9 was lost, which is a pity.

“Every part of Scotland has had a huge capital project and the people of the Highlands will be asking ‘where is our capital project, and why didn’t we get the commitment these other areas got?’”

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon is also due to give evidence on the A9 dualling to the Holyrood committee at a later date.



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