Scotland’s Transport Secretary has ruled out a formal internal review into the “complete failure” of dualling the A9 by the original 2025 timetable.

SNP Transport, New Zero and Just Transition Secretary confirmed no such review has taken place after being questioned by her outspoken party backbencher, Fergus Ewing.

Mr Ewing was speaking as his colleague gave evidence to Holyrood’s Citizen Participation Committee, which is investigating the A9 dualling project.

The committee has received official papers that suggest the cabinet was told in 2018 that privately financing the £3 billion plan to dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness meant a longer timescale.

Read more: 'This secrecy stinks': SNP ministers kept A9 delays secret for years

In December, Ms McAllan announced a new hybrid way of funding the project with investment from both the public and private sector in a model developed by the Welsh Government.

The dualling project will now be delivered 10 years late, and is set for completion by 2035 with an estimated £3.7 billion price tag.

Speaking at the committee, Ms McAllan told MSPs that there was “always an understanding that this was a complex project”.

The Herald: Mairi McAllanMairi McAllan
Pressed over suggestions that ministers knew five years ago that the 2025 timescale was not going to be kept to, Ms McAllan said she would “refute” that claim.

She said: “I would say it wasn’t until late 2022 that it was finally advised to ministers that there was no practical route to completion by 2025.

“I absolutely accept, as time goes on, there is a diminishing likelihood of completion by 2025 – that’s absolutely plain because it requires ever-more capital upfront, ever-more disruption on the route in order to complete it.

Read more: Top engineer says 'lack of political will' from SNP held up A9 project

“The advice that I think you are thinking about and referring to was advice ministers received on moving to a new private finance model and advice that that would take so much time to develop…that we would be pushing beyond 2025.”

The cabinet secretary told the committee that there were two principal reasons why the project has fallen behind significantly – pointing to red tape and changes to classification for the not-for-profit funding model by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2014.

Ms McAllan was questioned by Inverness and Nairn SNP MSP, Fergus Ewing, about the delays.

Mr Ewing pointed to a claim by then SNP transport minister Alex Neil that there was “more than sufficient capital to deliver the project” and has set out a timetable for sections of the dualling to be completed.

Read more: Alex Neil criticises Nicola Sturgeon over failure to dual A9

But Ms McAllan told the committee that despite the timetable set out, it was “heavily caveated” and there were still “a great many things to be worked out here”.

She added: “Very seldom at the beginning of such a complex project will you have certainty over delivery and funding right through to the end.

“It was Mr Neil’s impression of that on to two year period rather than the whole thing.”

But Mr Ewing said his was “just not convinced”.

The Herald: Fergus EwingFergus Ewing (Image: PA)

He said: “There was a complete failure to adhere to the very clear schedule of works programming because it’s set out every year which section will be done. That’s completely abandoned.”

In response, the cabinet secretary said: “I don’t deny there were delays Mr Ewing.

“What I would say is the principle reason for that were the two things I pointed out – the ONS reclassification of the not-for-profit distribution model in 2014 and a one to two year delay on statutory processes.”

Mr Ewing asked his party colleague whether there has “been any review into the failure to adhere to the plan”.

He added: “Has there been any internal review by the Scottish Government or anybody else for that matter as to why the timetable slipped and why there has been a failure to implement the very clear pledges that were made by the Scottish National Party repeatedly to the electorate at every election?”

Responding, Ms McAllan said: “In terms of formal reviews, that hasn’t been done within government.

“But I am very clear…of the two principal causes of the delay.

“I think we have a well-established view of what the two principal causes are for delay.

“There hasn’t been a formal internal review but we review on an ongoing basis, the reasons for delay.”