Council and business leaders from the north and north-east of the country have joined forces and written to cabinet secretary for finance economy and fair work Derek Mackay and cabinet secretary for transport infrastructure and connectivity Michael Matheson. The letter is aimed at countering calls for the Scottish government to abandon the investment in the two routes ahead of the next Budget as a response to the climate emergency.
They said investment in the A96 and A9 is crucial to the growth and prosperity of the local communities, which depend heavily on effective connectivity. Dualling will free up new opportunities to enhance town centres, improve safety, increase air quality and encourage active travel, they said.
Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of Hitrans, the regional transport partnership, said: ”We understand it’s easy for some to simply call for a blanket end to road projects, but as we look to tackle climate change, we need to ensure that the right decisions are taken to connect our cities and towns, and support those living and working in rural areas. Addressing inadequate road infrastructure in the North of Scotland should not be a casualty at the hands of those who have far greater transport choices.
“We know that we need to take action to deliver environmental sustainability, but we also need to recognise that many of those who use these routes do so without available alternatives. It is easy for those with access to travel choices to simply make these calls, but we have to appreciate that for much of Scotland our road network is the network on which new transport and energy powered choices will use. Hitrans will be playing our part in supporting those transitions.”
Councillor Graham Leadbitter, leader of Moray Council, said: “A96 dualling not only delivers a road fit for the future but will unblock the communities along it that endure the daily pressures of cars and HGVs doing long distances crawling through them and free up new opportunities to enhance these town centres. Anyone who knows these communities will understand the benefits that realigning the trunk road will bring in terms of improved safety and pedestrian and cycle use. We’ve had positive reassurance of the commitment to these road improvements and I hope that we’ll continue to see that commitment to deliver these vital upgrades.”
SCDI’s highlands and islands director, Fraser Grieve, added: “We too often fail to recognise the economic contribution of this region as the home of some of Scotland’s leading exports. The reliability of our transport network is vital to continued success and delivering these upgrades, along with other transport enhancements, will support the sustainability and competitiveness of this region. As we look to deliver a clean growth economy, it is vital that we understand the benefits of different transport improvements to the long-term sustainability of our communities, and ensure we have the infrastructure to support their continued contribution to our economic success.”