The UK Government has been asked to intervene if the SNP “renege on their promises” to dual the A96 in full from Inverness to Inverurie.
North-east MP Andrew Bowie has asked UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps whether he would work directly with Moray and Aberdeenshire councils “to help ensure” the dualling goes ahead – despite the issue being devolved to Scotland.
The Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine made the request after doubts were cast over the future of the project since the power-sharing deal between the SNP and Greens was agreed last month.
It comes after an exclusive interview on The Stooshie – the DC Thomson politics podcast – in which North-east Green MSP Maggie Chapman revealed she is confident it will “not be viable” to fully dual the route for environmental reasons.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said the government “remain committed to improving the A96” but confirmed a “transparent evidence-based review” of the scheme would report back by the end of next year.
The spokesman added that the A96 is a trunk road for which Scottish ministers have responsibility and that the “UK Government has no locus in this matter”.
In response to the request, Ms Chapman said she suspects “Grant Shapps knows that any attempt to undercut devolution and impose planet-wrecking policies in Scotland will only boost the case for indepenence in Scotland”.
‘Renege on their promises’
Mr Bowie said people in the north-east – who have waited more than 30 years for the project to become a reality – “can’t count on the Scottish Government not to renege on their promises made before the Holyrood election”.
He adde: “A public who will not care one jot who delivers it, just that it is done.
“If this was a dangerous stretch of road in the central belt, it wouldn’t even be up for discussion.
“We were warned that the SNP would be held hostage by a Green agenda that is even more ignorant of the north-east than the previous administration.”
‘Safety will be the absolute priority’
However, Ms Chapman hit back at the Tories who she claimed were “so desperate to overrule decisions made at Holyrood they don’t even bother to look at the details”.
She added: “If Mr Bowie had read the co-operation deal between the Scottish Greens and the SNP he’d know that safety will be the absolute priority when it comes to our approach to roads, along with a climate impact assessment on every proposal.
“What we won’t do is needlessly spend billions on road expansions that increase the traffic burden and drive up climate emissions, like the reckless UK Government has pledged to do south of the border.”
The move is the second in recent days to raise questions around devolution, after talks broke down between Holyrood and Westminster over creating a port with special tax status in Scotland.
One UK Government source said the freeports debacle means the “genie is out of the bottle” – suggesting it could have longer term implications in other areas, including major trunk road projects.
‘Scottish ministers have responsibility’
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We remain committed to improving the A96 and while the current plan is to fully dual the A96 route between Inverness and Aberdeen, the Scottish Government has agreed to conduct a transparent evidence-based review of the programme which will report by the end of 2022.
“The cooperation agreement with the Scottish Green party sets out that we will take forward a transport enhancements programme on the corridor that improves connectivity between surrounding towns, tackles congestion and addresses safety and environmental issues.
“Transport policy and priorities are matters devolved to Scottish Ministers and the A96 is a trunk road for which Scottish Ministers have responsibility – the UK Government has no locus in this matter.”