Douglas Ross has suggested that the UK Government could intervene to finally get the A9 dualled as he pledged to pile more pressure on SNP minister to complete the contentious project.

The Scottish Government committed to dualling the entirely of the A9 in 2007, but has delayed the plans. No completion date has been provided by SNP minister.

Mr Ross, in his keynote address to a Scottish Conservative fringe event at the UK Tory conference in Manchester, stressed that dualling the A9 and other key roads will be a priority for his party.

With a general election expected in 2024, Mr Ross said the Tory party would pledge to fully dual the A9 to Inverness and the A96 “as soon as possible”.

Read more: Fergus Ewing warns failure to dual A9 costing lives

He said: “Last year deaths on that road reached the highest level in over a decade.

“And deaths on the sections still to be upgraded were three times higher than on the already dualled parts of the road.

“There is no way that a similar situation would be tolerated on the M8.”

Mr Ross added: “ Yet because it concerns the north of the country it is repeatedly moved down the priority list.

"Campaigners now believe that those upgrades will not be completed until 2050. This situation is a total disgrace and shows how little the SNP care about Highland communities.”

Mr Ross claimed that the SNP “would rather bring the anti-driver Greens into government than protect lives on dangerous roads”.

He added that the ability to “drive about the country safely” is now “considered a political choice for government”.

Read more: Scottish Conservatives aim to double tally of MPs at general election

Mr Ross said: “ So many people need to use their car, either because public transport is not available or too expensive.

“While we understand the importance of achieving net zero, this cannot be done at the expense of ordinary families.”

SNP 'misleading' public over net zero costs

The Scottish Conservative leader accused the Scottish Government of having “not been honest with people about the costs of their radical plans”, accusing ministers of “trying to dupe the public”.

He added: “Humza Yousaf is misleading people about how much his targets will cost working people.

“The SNP are acting two-faced, pretending that we can reach net zero at record pace with zero effort.

“It’s a sleekit and deceitful approach to hide how damaging their policies will be for families.”

Mr Ross announced that “the very first pledge in our 2024 general election manifesto will be to fully dual the A9 to Inverness, and the A96, as soon as possible”.

Read more: Scottish and Welsh climate ministers demand UK net zero summit

He added: “Where the SNP has failed to deliver on its promises to the north of Scotland, our Scottish Conservative promise will be cast iron – no ifs, no buts.

“We will make dualling the A9 and A96 and upgrading other major roads our top infrastructure priority.”

Asked whether the UK Government could intervene to complete the project, Mr Ross suggested it could be considered, despite being a devolved policy area.

Speaking to journalists, he said: “We’ve already seen the UK Government intervening in transport projects in Scotland.”

“I believe we should integrate the two governments working together.”

Mr Ross acknowledged “it is a devolved matter”.

But he added: “I think pressure from the UK Government and a large group of Scottish Conservative MPs at Westminster on that pledge, will continue to hold SNP feet to the fire.”

Asked to clarify whether the UK Government could step in, the Scottish Conservative leader said: “You’d always have to look at that.”

Mr Ross insisted that net zero pledges needed to remain on track.

No action against Tory MSP who broke whip

Last week, on of Mr Ross's MSPs, Maurice Golden, voted against the party in a debate at Holyrood over the UK Government weakening its climate pledges.

Asked by The Herald if Mr Golden will be consequences for his move, Mr Ross said “there will be no punishment” against him.

He added: “I’d be slightly hypocritical if I did that, because I voted against the UK Government at time.

“I have a serious disagreement with Maurice on this issue. I think he is wrong, but I don’t try to stop him articulating his views. He’s entitled to have those opinions.”

Mr Ross also said that infrastructure projects such as transport and broadband upgrades will first be delivered in rural parts of the country, adopting an “outwards-in approach”.

He added: “This will see projects delivered in the north and the Borders first, ahead of being brought to the populated centre of our country.”

But that comes as his party colleague, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, refused to set out a decision on whether the HS2 rail project will ever reach Manchester, despite his party’s conference slogan being “long term decisions for a brighter future”.

Read more: Humza Yousaf: A9 dualling will not be finished before 2026 election

The Prime Minister declined to comment on “speculation” as Theresa May followed Boris Johnson and David Cameron to become the latest Conservative former premier to warn against axing the Northern leg.

Andy Street, the Tory mayor of the West Midlands, is among the critics of HS2 not being extended past Birmingham, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned it could make the UK a “laughing stock” as it may never reach central London, instead stopping in a western suburb.

But Mr Sunak faced down his critics, telling The BBC’s Laurua Kuenssberg: “I’d completely reject that.”

The Prime Minister was instead keen to discuss his plans to combat what he terms as a “war on motorists” by issuing stronger guidance on 20mph zones and low traffic neighbourhoods in England.