SNP stalwart Fergus Ewing has said the First Minister will need to "consider his position" if he fails to make serious progress on dualling the A9.

The former minister said his party would not "deserve to continue to be in government” if work was not carried out on the road. 

The blunt warning from the veteran MSP could lead to disciplinary action from the party and comes just weeks after he faced losing the whip for voting to sack Green minister Lorna Slater. 

SNP sources said Mr Ewing had “crossed a line” when he supported a Tory motion of no confidence in Ms Slater over the failed Deposit Return Scheme.

However, sanctions were paused following the death of his mother, Winnie Ewing. 

READ MORE: Fergus Ewing facing loss of SNP whip over 'sack Lorna Slater vote'

The Scottish Government committed to widening around 80 miles of single-carriageway in 11 sections along the road in 2011.

However, only 11 miles in two sections have been dualled in the last 12 years. 

Earlier this year, the then transport minister Jenny Gilruth told parliament that the ambition of dualling the road between Perth and Inverness by 2025 had become “simply unachievable”. 

Last year 13 people lost their lives on the A9, of those 12 were on single-carriageway sections.

The Herald: Is dualling the A9 really essential to reduce the number of  accidents there?

Speaking at an 'A9 crisis summit' organised by the Inverness Courier, Mr Ewing set out three demands. The first was for a revised deadline to finish the whole dualling programme.

The second was for a change to the contract offered by Transport Scotland to encourage more tenders.

Thirdly, he asked for the “political will” to complete the dualling.

Mairi McAllan, the Cabinet Secretary whose brief covers transport was also at the meeting. 

She admitted that she is often nervous when driving on the A9.

Ms McAllan told the summit that the current state of the dualling programme is "not fit for purpose".

"I want to offer my sincere, heartfelt condolences to every single person who has suffered within their families from a loss on the A9," she said.

"I had a knot in my stomach when some of those experiences were being described earlier and I know that is but microscopic compared to the lifetime of grief that people are suffering.

"So my condolences go to them. So too do they go to those who have suffered injuries and anyone who doesn’t feel safe when driving the route and I am with you on that.

"I myself, or when with my family, have had my heart in my mouth when emerging from some of the junctions on that route."

The minister added: "I acknowledge the situation as it stands is not fit for purpose and that acknowledgement is exactly what informs Scottish ministers' commitment that the A9 between Inverness and Perth will be dualled.

"Let me repeat that, I am committed and the First Minister is committed to the completion of that project.

"Now clearly things have not moved at the pace that we would have wanted to.

"But I just want to be clear that dualling the A9 – our commitment – will be the single largest and most complicated transport engineering project in Scotland’s history.

She told the audience: “There is nothing that I won’t consider in order to try and do what we can to make this road as safe as possible whilst the dualling programme goes on.

“I want to make that very clear. It’s important to know that some of these points have been considered by officials who have been working on this for a long time, but for my part, I want to take all of this and do anything that I can to improve the situation.”

READ MORE: A9 dualling will not take until 2050, First Minister insists

Mr Ewing pointed to the First Minister's recent "cast iron" promise that the job would be completed.

He said: “If the First Minister says it is a cast-iron guarantee, there must be a plan – how could there not be a plan?

“If you have a cast-iron guarantee you need a plan and you need to persuade people that you mean it, and you believe it and you are going to ascribe the money.

“The rest of Scotland has seen excellent progress – the Forth Crossing for Fife, the Borders railway for the Borders, the motorways for Glasgow, the peripheral road for Aberdeen, and Edinburgh – god help them – chose the trams.

“They have had their major improvement – now it is the Highlands' turn.

“For me this is a matter of honour, I will not stand here in a year’s time and continue to support this government unless they deliver and deliver quickly on all of those three things.

“And if they don’t do that then, frankly, I don’t think we deserve to continue to be in government

READ MORE: Fergus Ewing warns failure to dual A9 costing lives

Speaking to the Inverness Courier after the summit, Mr Ewing said: “Well, I was grateful for the cabinet sanctuary appearing today, but I'm afraid to say that there weren't specific guarantees to the questions that were asked.

“There was no specific assurance that she will, in parliament, in the statement give a completion date by which the A9 must be dualled

“Secondly, there was no clear commitment to give in her statement a clear detailed schedule of when each of the remaining nine sections will be completed.

“And thirdly, there was no absolute guarantee that the money will be spent in the Highlands as opposed to in the Central Belt.

“So what I'm saying today is that, for me, for the cabinet secretary, for the First Minister – we must deliver.

“This is a matter of honour. It's a cast iron guarantee and quite frankly, if the First Minister cannot deliver, he must consider his position.”

During the summit, Mr Ewing also criticised the "malign" influence of the Greens. 

He said: "And I can't forbear to say that there is concern that the influence of the Greens in government is malign and even that the Green tail is wagging the dog. Let's show them who’s boss."

A Scottish Greens spokesperson said: "We are 100% committed to improving safety on the A9 and have consistently argued for safety measures and junction improvements.

"With Scottish Greens working constructively in government we have delivered for people and planet, with a £25 a week Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty, record investment in walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure, a real living wage for all Scottish Government contractors and free bus travel for everyone under 22."