The dualling of the A9 and A69 will go ahead despite the climate emergency as the roads have “very serious and alarming safety records”, the Deputy First Minister has said.
The Scottish Greens have called on the government to use the estimated £6 billion being spent on the roadworks on improving the Highland railway line instead, in light of the First Minister declaring a climate emergency.
However, at FMQs, John Swinney argued that “the Government has to take forward its agenda in a sustainable way” but that the work on the A9 and A96 must go ahead due to safety concerns.
Mr Swinney, who was standing in for Nicola Sturgeon during the D-Day commemorations, said: “The Government has to take forward its agenda in a sustainable way.
“But the government also has a duty to make sure the country is equipped with the appropriate infrastructure that it requires to meet the needs of all of our population.
“Anyone who is familiar with the A9 and the A96 will know that both of these roads have, by their current construction and by the volume of their use, have very serious and alarming safety records.
“These issues have to be addressed as part of the Government’s programme.”
Responding to Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie, Mr Swinney stressed that there was “an absolute obligation on the Government to fulfil the climate change targets that we have given to parliament and to the people of Scotland.”
Mr Harvie said: “The current plans will do nothing to control the issue of the volume of use of those roads,” and called for the government to “change direction here and redirect expenditure from road building into investment in a modern, affordable and efficient rail system”.
“The single track Highland mainline railway which runs parallel to the A9 has been described as an antiquated embarrassment”, he added.
“Dualling that line and electrifying it could be done for a far lower cost that the government’s road-building scheme.”
Speaking after FMQs, Mr Harvie added: “This week we’ve seen a welcome U-turn from the Welsh government, scrapping its plan to build a new motorway in the face of the climate emergency.
“If the Scottish government’s climate commitments are to be taken seriously, it must too rethink its polluting road plans, and instead invest in reliable alternatives.”