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Transport secretary Mairi McAllan to join panel at The Inverness Courier A9 Crisis Summit

By Scott Maclennan

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Transport secretary Mairi Macallan will attend the A9 Crisis Summit.
Transport secretary Mairi Macallan will attend the A9 Crisis Summit.

The broken A9 dualling promise is back in the spotlight as the politician in overall charge of Scotland’s transport system, cabinet secretary Màiri McAllan, will attend The Inverness Courier A9 Crisis Summit.

As part of The Inverness Courier's ongoing Dual The A9 campaign, the cabinet secretary for transport, net zero and just transition will hear directly from local industry, campaigners and MSPs.

She will be joined by top officials from Transport Scotland including interim chief executive Alison Irvine and contracts director Rob Galbraith. The panel will also include A9 dualling and safety campaigner Laura Hansler, SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn backbencher Fergus Ewing and Colin Marr, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce.

The summit will hold the Scottish Government to account for dualling delays on what has been dubbed one of “Scotland’s killer roads”, while pressing for a new timeline. Crucially, a major part of the event will be aimed at developing possible short-term solutions to limit the dangers people face when travelling to and from the Highlands.

As well as a panel discussion there will be audience questions, with local politicians invited to take part, alongside friends and family of victims and concerned locals.

Sarah Fyfe, head of content and audience at Highland News & Media, publishers of The Inverness Courier, said: "We are pleased to see the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland taking this issue seriously.

“The summit is an opportunity to make sure our voices are heard and demand progress. We have an excellent range of experts, campaigners and government officials taking part, which will enable us to gain a clearer picture of what went wrong and how to move forward."

Tomorrow’s event comes after the A9 was closed for about three hours on Sunday following a one-car crash near Dalwhinnie that left four people in Raigmore Hospital – the extent of their injuries is unclear.

The Scottish Government admitted in February that it would miss the deadline to dual the Inverness-Perth stretch of the A9 by 2025.

The issue became a major talking point in the SNP leadership election and The Inverness Courier’s front pages were held up in the Scottish Parliament several times, including the leading item at First Minister’s Questions.

After Mr Yousaf won he made what he said was an “ironclad” promise to complete the dualling, but that has not stopped the SNP membership from speaking out, including local MSPs and MPs.

There were also further revelations about the failures going back years when Laura Hansler of A9 Dual Action Group – who will be one of our panellists – attended the meeting of Holyrood’s petitions committee in June.

Transport Scotland has been accused of having contract terms that make it impossible for contractors to make money and it is considered “the worst client to work for in the UK”.

That was according to Grahame Barn, the chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) Scotland – he will take part in the summit via video interview – who said there are multiple ways to finish the work, which is likely to cost at least £4 billion.

It was also revealed that progress could have been made as four sections of the A9 were ready to be dualled, but the funding from the Scottish Government was not made available.

Tomatin to Moy was cancelled in February by Scottish ministers as not representing value for money but it emerged at the committee that by the time the re-tendering process is finished, it will cost more than the initial bid.

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