Transport minister Fiona Hyslop has said she cannot say the Scottish Government will be able to deliver on a commitment to improve one of Scotland's most notorious roads by the end of the decade.

Concerns have surfaced as official figures show that there have been 11 deaths and 82 serious injuries on the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen in the past four years.

On December 6, 2011, the Scottish Government made a commitment to complete the dualling of the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030.

The plan was aimed at cutting the rate and severity of accidents on the road, and improve journey times between Aberdeen and Inverness.

Long promised work on the A96 was paused in 2021 when the Scottish Greens entered into a Scottish Government power-sharing arrangement with the SNP and demanded an “urgent” environmental impact of fully dualling the A96.

The Greens have long been opposed to the expansion of either the A96 or the A9 connecting Inverness with Aberdeen and Perth.

READ MORE: 'Don't threaten our economy in the name of climate change': backlash against Greens bid to scrap road improvements

The review report, including a climate assessment was expected to be published in December 2022 but it still has not materialised despite costing the taxpayer £3.8m.

The Herald:

Government roads agency Transport Scotland defended the cost as “not unreasonable” given the “length and complexity” of the corridor.

Ms Hyslop said she could not make any commitment while the result of the review was awaited.

She told the Scottish Parliament's net zero, energy and transport committee: "I think the sensible thing is to see what the review says in terms of the assessments of the options because clearly whatever options are then recommended, will have an impact in terms of the timescale for production of that, as will the capital availability for that."

She pointed to a seven percent reduction in Scottish Government capital funding of the Scottish Government over the coming years and said that construction inflation has been "excessive even over regular inflation".

She added: "So there are challenges for all construction. So I think it would be remiss of me to give you a commitment on timescales until we've done the necessary piece of work, and that will be reported."

She added: "The challenge for the A96 was the sheer number of different options put forward. There were 11,000 options put forward.

"And in terms of the appraisals of those 11,000 options we're looking at producing that appraisal, particularly of the 16 retained options, in order that that report can be produced.

"It is a priority for the Scottish Government to deliver on the review to look at the assessments there to make sure that we have the improvements..."

The £3.8m bill included the cost of undertaking a public consultation exercise, which attacted 4,687 responses.

The outcome of the review was expected to be ready this summer but was then not expected to be publicly available until after September 3.

Last week, two men were taken to hospital after a three-car smash that closed the A96 near Huntly, Aberdeenshire for six hours.

A 54-year-old man was airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) following the accident on the Aberdeen to Inverness road, at Siloch.

Another man, 53, was taken to the ARI by ambulance.

The Herald: North East Scotland MSP Douglas Lumsden said: "There was a commitment. But it doesn't appear to be being met.

"I think as it gets delayed, even more, we are letting families down that have been seriously impacted by what's happening on this road and that is the reason why I'm pushing this."

The A96 was revealed as the north-east of Scotland's most dangerours road with nearly 300 collisions in seven years.

A total of 1,760 accidents, ranging from slight to fatal, were recorded on 18 north and north-east roads from 2016 to the 2022 according to Police Scotland figures.

More accidents were recorded on the A96 over the period than any other with a total of 277 - including 18 fatal crashes and 91 regarded as serious.

Mr Lumsden later added: “The A96 figures are horrifying and are a damning indictment of more than a decade of false promises and excuses from the SNP to avoid fully dualling the road.

“Fiona Hyslop, Humza Yousaf and the rest of the SNP Government should be ashamed of themselves for disowning communities whose lives are being put at risk on a daily basis when travelling on this dangerous road.

“On Thursday, we saw the tragic consequences of this inaction when two people were injured in a crash near Huntly resulting in an air ambulance being called.

“Enough is enough. How many more of these collisions will it take for the SNP Government to grow a backbone, stand up to the Greens and fully dual the road from Aberdeen to Inverness.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Road safety is of paramount importance to this Government and we remain absolutely committed to making improvements to the A96, with the current plan being to fully dual the route.

“The significant interest in the transparent, evidence-based review’s initial consultation generated 11,000 options to improve the corridor and it is only right that these were fully appraised.  

“Transport Scotland is pushing forward a robust appraisal of the sixteen retained options alongside a Climate Compatibility Assessment, with outcomes expected to be ready in the coming months for final public consultation, before a final decision can be reached.”