FERGUS Ewing has blamed the influence of the Scottish Greens on the SNP government for the lack of progress on dualling the A9.

The former minister said the failure to carry out work on the notoriously treacherous road was costing lives. 

The MSP for Inverness and Nairn was speaking out after the death of an 18-year-old driver on Friday morning.

Police said the teenager died as a result of a two-vehicle crash on the A9 near Dalmagarry involving a car and a lorry.

He was the sole occupant of the car and was pronounced dead at the scene.

READ MORE: A9 Dalmagarry: Teenager dies in crash involving car and lorry

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”. 

She was unable to give a new target date, saying her officials would not be ready to tell her until the autumn.

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

The Herald: amphoto - A new average speed camera system, which will run from Dunblane to Inverness, is to be installed on the A9 to improve safety.SEE STORY today Fri 26/7/13 Picture shows  the  A9 single carriageway section north of Dunkeld in a heat haze on a hot J

The BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme asked Mr Ewing if the lack of progress was costing lives.

“I’m afraid to say the answer to that is yes, and every life is a tragedy for their families.

“This could not be more serious.”

He said the Scottish Government needed to bring forward “a detailed statement setting out when each section of the road will be dualled and by what time the project will be completed.”

“I have asked for this for the last two years, but instead of making significant progress, we move backwards.”

He added: “I think people are fed up with excuses and I do hope that we wouldn’t hear any more of them.”

Mr Ewing urged the Scottish Government to move away from tendering contracts and switch to framework contracts which will get the dualling completed quicker by using multiple companies.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes: A9 dualling could take until 2050 without quango reform

And Mr Ewing claimed the Green MSPs' opposition to more road building was holding progress back. 

The Bute House Agreement signed between the SNP and Greens called for a "shift away from spending money on new road projects that encourage more people to drive." 

Mr Ewing told the BBC: “I think there is growing concern that the green tail is wagging the yellow dog. And that is prevalent everywhere I go in my constituency.”

The comments came as the Inverness Courier published a stark front page on Tuesday, asking Humza Yousaf and Transport Minister, Kevin Stewart, “How many more people need to die?”

Speaking to the paper, former finance secretary Kate Forbes said did not think people in the Highlands would be able to tolerate this much longer

“I think the entirety of the Highlands is desperate to see the A9 dualled,” she said. “I think there is genuinely a fear that grips every heart in the Highlands when you hear of another accident.

“On Friday morning, I knew I had family travelling, I knew of friends who were travelling and you have the immediate fear that it may be someone you know and love who has been in an accident.

“I don’t think the Highlands will tolerate that sense of fear and anguish over so many fatalities for much longer. They demand action, they were demanding action years ago, demanding a new timetable months ago.

“If the A9 is really an absolute priority we need to see that reflected in the sense of urgency in which the timetable is published and a commitment to prioritise the capital funding to dual it.”

The Herald:

Asked what she would have done differently had she won the SNP leadership contest, the MSP replied: “I said that we needed to kick-start the dualling programme as a matter of the utmost urgency, demanding that Transport Scotland publish a renewed timetable in the first few weeks of being office with a commitment to dual the A9 from Perth to Inverness within the decade.

“And even that feels too long considering the 18 months we have witnessed but we have to start somewhere.

“We have to prioritise funding, prioritising work at Transport Scotland and ensuring the contract process works for contractors.”

READ MORE: AGENDA: A9 backtrack is a betrayal of the Highlands

Local SNP MP Drew Hendry told the paper he was due to meet the Transport Minister to discuss how “the next steps in dualling can be moved forward with urgency.”

Mr Stewart said the government remained committed to dualling the road He said: “My sympathies are very much with the family and friends of the deceased at this time.

“As police investigations into this incident are ongoing it would be inappropriate for me to comment further – however, as part of standard policy, officials will meet with the police and our operating company to obtain more detailed information.

“On the A9 dualling programme more broadly, we remain firmly committed to completing the dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness.

“The £3 billion investment (at 2008 prices) is one of the biggest transport infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history and we have already invested over £430 million delivering the programme.

“I intend to provide an update on the wider dualling programme to Parliament this autumn.

“The necessary steps for the new procurement of the Tomatin to Moy project are currently being progressed by officials.

“They are engaging with The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) and contractors, to consider improvements that can be made to both our contract delivery strategy and procurement mechanisms – in order to maximise interest and market engagement in the new procurement.”