The Nairn bypass
... and what I am doing to help it happen
People are, unsurprisingly, already asking me questions about my view on dualling the A96 and the Nairn bypass and how I’m going to make it happen.
To begin with it’s worth saying where we are with this. The long term plan is to dual the A96 all the way from Inverness to Aberdeen. That was announced back in December 2011. Since then a lot of work has been done on the section from Inverness to just the other side of Nairn, including an environmental assessment. So there are now detailed plans for a dual carriageway from the A9 junction around and past Nairn with junctions to the east and west of the town.
Those plans are well advanced but they take a long time to be approved, not least because putting in new roads requires land to be compulsorily purchased and sometimes landowners vigorously oppose that.
Anyway we are now getting very close to being able to go ahead.
Meanwhile there was an agreement made between the SNP and the Scottish Greens after the election last May which puts the dualling process for the whole route in doubt … but it’s important to be clear that this does not affect the Nairn bypass.
This is the bit that worried people (and I’m quoting here directly from the agreement):
The current plan is to fully dual the A96 route between Inverness and Aberdeen. We agree to conduct a transparent, evidence-based review to include a climate compatibility assessment to assess direct and indirect impacts on the climate and the environment. This will report by the end of 2022.
… and that sounds like the dualling is delayed and might not happen. This is not the full story though as the preceding section says (my emboldening):
However, as part of this agreement, the Scottish Government will take forward a transport enhancements programme on the A96 corridor that improves connectivity between surrounding towns, tackles congestion and addresses safety and environmental issues. This will include:
dualling from Inverness to Nairn.
bypassing of Nairn, Keith, Elgin and Inverurie accompanied by measures to remove through traffic from the by-passed town centres.
So, to be clear, the dualling and the bypass will go ahead and isn’t waiting on that climate compatibility assessment. I’ve also had independent confirmation of this from the Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth.
What we’re waiting for now is the funding and our MSP, Fergus Ewing, who has been a passionate advocate of this project from the start, continues to push for it to begin.
Which brings me back to the questions people are asking about what are my views and how am I going to make it happen.
Well the first thing to say is that I’m obviously in favour of the scheme but if elected as a Highland councillor, there is little I could do directly as this is a strategic trunk road and the responsibility of the Scottish Government not Highland Council. So when I (and all the other candidates I suspect!) say in our leaflets words like “we will work to get the Nairn bypass built” I’m sure we all will … but honestly there’s really a limit to how much we can do as it’s not in our gift.
However, as a councillor standing for the SNP I’m in a much stronger position than the others because my party is the one in power at Holyrood and I can ask questions and I can push to make it happen and that’s what I will do, and indeed it’s what I’m already doing in conversations with MSPs and our MP.
As a result Jenny Gilruth, the Transport Minister will be visiting Nairn soon to meet local stakeholders and hear for herself the strength of views on the need for the bypass.
If elected I will be at that meeting as one of your councillors and I will be pointing out the need for the bypass to improve safety and reduce the environmental impact of the heavy traffic which goes through Nairn.