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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Net zero Scotland will still need roads, says minister

Scotland's Transport and Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan says a £3.7bn road-building project should be completed while Scotland works towards meeting climate change targets.

The minister has restated a Scottish government commitment to finish the job of dualling the A9 from Inverness to Perth.

But she was asked at Holyrood's petitions committee if there was a conflict between building new roads and an effort to reduce harmful emissions.

Ms McAllan said a net zero Scotland would still need roads that were safe and helped to ensure economic prosperity, but added she hoped they would be driven on by low emissions vehicles.

In December, the Scottish government said completing the dualling of the A9 between Inverness and Perth had been delayed by 10 years until 2035.

Ms McAllan said at the time a new rolling programme of improvements was "achievable" and there would be "no let up" in the work.

But opposition MSPs said communities had been waiting since SNP manifesto commitments in 2007 and 2011 to see the road upgraded by a target date of 2025.

The government said in February last year that finishing by 2025 was "unachievable".

The A9 is Scotland's longest trunk road.

Two sections of single carriageway totalling 11 miles (18km) of road have been upgraded over the past decade - but 77 miles (124km) of the route has still to be dualled.

On Wednesday at Holyrood's citizen participation and public petitions committee, Ms McAllan said the government had a clear plan to finishing the job.

But she was asked by Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden if any conflicts had been identified between completing the road project and meeting climate change targets in 2030.

The Scottish government wants to reach net zero by 2045, but with interim targets of 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040.

Net zero means the amount of harmful emissions Scotland produces, including from transport, and the amount it can remove, adds up to zero.

Ms McAllan said climate change issues had been carefully considered, but added that there was a long-standing commitment to finishing the A9 project to make it safer and provide economic opportunities.

She said: "I will always, with my climate and transport responsibilities, try to seek the finest of balances between those competing interests.

"I think we will need roads in a net zero Scotland.

"Yes, I hope they will be driven by low-emission electric and hydrogen vehicles, but we will need roads.

"They will need to be safe and help ensure the economic prosperity of the country."

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