A96 Investigation: Richard Lochhead Pressured to Resign as Minister in Protest Over Scottish Government Dualling ‘Scandal’

Credits: The Times

Labour group leader Councillor Sandy Keith has called for MSP Richard Lochhead to step down from the government to push for answers on the dualling of the A96 road.

However, Mr Lochhead dismissed the call, suggesting that Cllr Keith might be influenced by “election fever” with the upcoming UK General Election.

Mr Lochhead encouraged Cllr Keith to focus his criticism on the UK Tories, arguing that they have significantly reduced Scottish Government budgets. He also pointed out that Labour, unlike the SNP, did not commit to A96 dualling while they were in power.

Responding to the criticism, Mr Lochhead highlighted that during the period covered by the A96 investigation, between autumn 2020 and autumn 2023, he was not a cabinet secretary and had no responsibility for A96 dualling.

Richard Lochhead (Credits: Holyrood)

However, Cllr Keith suggested that early decisions on stalling the scheme may have been made while Mr Lochhead was at the cabinet table between 2007 and 2016.

Cllr Keith criticized Mr Lochhead for not knowing about or agreeing with the decision to deprioritize the dualling of the A96, given his long tenure in government. He called on Mr Lochhead to consider his position and stand up for the people of Moray.

In response, Mr Lochhead reiterated that the UK Tories have impacted the Scottish Budget and defended his record, stating that he has represented Moray for nearly 25 years and has been committed to the A96 project.

He also pointed out that he has been outside the cabinet for almost eight years, and none of his ministerial posts have been linked to the A96 project.

The A96 investigation revealed internal emails indicating that the Scottish Government removed references to their 2011 pledge to dual the A96 by 2030 from a policy document.

Additionally, less than 0.5% of the A96 dualling’s price tag has been pledged until 2026, raising concerns about meeting the 2030 deadline. Internal documents also confirmed that “no funding” before 2026 is available for A96 dualling sections, leading to uncertainty about the project’s future.

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