Alex Salmond warns John Swinney not to backtrack on A9 dualling to appease Scottish Greens

John Swinney has been challenged by former first minister Alex Salmond not to back down on completing the dualling of the A9

Alex Salmond has warned first minister-in-waiting John Swinney he could pay the "heaviest of political prices" if key road-building projects – such as completing the dualling of the A9 – are put on hold to appease the Scottish Greens.

Mr Salmond spoke out as he prepared to give evidence to a Holyrood committee probing delays to work to upgrade the A9 from Perth to Inverness to dual carriageway.

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The former first minister is expected to express his "bitter disappointment that unacceptable lack of progress has been made on delivering a promise made to the people of the Highlands of Scotland by the Scottish Government".

Dualling the A9 has been severely delayed. Picture: John Devlin/National WorldDualling the A9 has been severely delayed. Picture: John Devlin/National World
Dualling the A9 has been severely delayed. Picture: John Devlin/National World

His comments came ahead of today’s close of SNP leadership nominations, with Mr Swinney likely to be the only candidate for the job.

As a result of that, he is expected to be voted in as Scotland's seventh first minister in a ballot at the Scottish Parliament later this week. However, with the SNP without a majority at Holyrood, he will likely still be forced to rely on the Scottish Greens for support.

Mr Salmond, who now leads the rival pro-independence Alba Party, warned the likely next first minister not to further delay work on the A9.

During Mr Salmond's time as first minister, the Scottish Government had committed to fully dualing the stretch by 2025. But in December 2023, ministers admitted this was not achievable, saying it would be 2035 before the work could be completed.

Mr Salmond, speaking ahead of his appearance at the citizen participation and public petitions committee as part of its investigation into the delay to the project, said he had made a "firm commitment to complete the dualing of the A9 to Inverness by 2025 at a historic cabinet meeting in Inverness Town House in 2008".

The former first minister, however added, after he left office "like many essential projects, it was allowed to slip down the capital agenda with the eyes of the Scottish Government increasingly focused on niche policies of the Scottish Green Party".

He insisted when he had stepped down in 2014, the project was "on track for delivery".

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"If I had not stood down as first minister, then I would have assured that the project would have been completed on the planned timescale,” he said.

"The Scottish Government I led had a track record of delivery. We promised to do things and we then delivered them when we said we would.”

"That's what we did with the M80, the Borders Railway, the Aberdeen by pass, the M74 and the Queensferry crossing. Only the Highlands were let down after 2014."

The former first minister added: "The job of the Scottish Government is to provide the infrastructure required to allow the Highlands and Islands to flourish whether it be roads in the mainland, ferries to the islands or electronic infrastructure everywhere.

"As first minister, I demonstrated that commitment by holding cabinet meetings in Inverness, Caithness, Inveraray, Moray and the Northern and Western Isles. Each of these meetings committed promises to north communities and indeed were honoured like the University of the Highlands and Islands.

"However, over the last 10 years, the SNP government has effectively turned its back on the Highlands, and failed to realise that investing in infrastructure is essential to growing Scotland's economy."

He added: "If John Swinney becomes the next first minister of Scotland and sells out the Highlands to buy the support of the Scottish Greens, then he will pay the heaviest of political prices."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We have set out the Scottish Government's plans for the A96 and the A9. There are no plans to change these".

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A spokesperson for Mr Swinney said: "Mr Swinney's support for the dualling of the A9 has been unwavering.

"He is on record as stating that this vital infrastructure project will save lives, unlock economic potential and improve connectivity between the Highlands and central Scotland.

"In December 2023, the transport secretary updated Parliament on the revised timescales for the A9 dualling programme. In this statement, she re-affirmed the Scottish Government's support for completing this project.

"If elected first minister, Mr Swinney will lead a government that continues the delivery of this project."



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