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Alex Salmond warns John Swinney not to backtrack on A9 dualling

The former first minister said that if he hadn't stood down in 2014, he would have made sure the road was upgraded by 2025.

Former first minister Alex Salmond.
Alba Party leader Alex Salmond.

Alex Salmond accused the SNP government of “turning its back on the Highlands” as he warned John Swinney he will pay a heavy political price if he backtracks on dualling the A9.

The former first minister spoke out as he prepares to give evidence to a Holyrood committee examining the SNP government’s failure to complete upgrades to the road between Perth and Inverness by 2025.

Mr Salmond – who is now leader of the rival pro-independence Alba Party – 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”.

He made the commitment following an historic cabinet meeting at Inverness Town House in 2008.

But last year ministers were forced to admit they would not be able to achieve the goal, with a new target set for 2035.

Alex Salmond. Image: PA

Speaking ahead of his appearance at parliament’s Public Petitions Committee on Wednesday, Mr Salmond insisted that if he had not stood down in 2014 he would have assured the project was completed on time.

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.”

He accused Nicola Sturgeon’s government of allowing the A9 to slip down the agenda as the government focussed on the “niche” policies of the Scottish Greens.

Alex Salmond: SNP government has ‘turned back on the Highlands’

He 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.

“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.”

His comments came ahead of Monday’s close of SNP leadership nominations – with Perthshire MSP John Swinney likely to be the only candidate for the job.

And although he is expected to be voted in as Scotland’s next first minister, parliamentary arithmetic means he will rely on the Scottish Greens and other opposition groups to govern.

Scottish Green Party leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater. Image: PA

Mr Salmond warned Mr Swinney against backtracking on commitments to the A9 in order to appease the Greens.

He said: “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 spokesperson for Mr Swinney insisted his commitment to dualling the A9 was “unwavering”.

They said: “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.

John Swinney’s commitment to A9 dualling ‘unwavering’

“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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