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'Nothing has changed' – Call to 'reignite' Elgin Bypass and A96 dualling fight 21 years on

By Lewis McBlane

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A LONG-time Elgin Bypass campaigner has shared his frustration that "not an inch" of the A96 in Moray has been improved, over a decade in which upgrade plans came to "absolutely nothing".

Elgin North Councillor Sandy Keith continues his push for an Elgin Bypass 21 years on...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Elgin North Councillor Sandy Keith continues his push for an Elgin Bypass 21 years on...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Councillor Sandy Keith (Elgin North, Labour) said traffic on Elgin's roads had "actually gotten worse" since the bypass campaign's heyday 20 years ago.

He added that momentum for the "absolutely essential" A96 dualling project, which would bypass Moray towns, "just seems to have totally disappeared."

Cllr Keith spoke to the 'Scot' earlier this week (June 26) beside the A96 at the Halfords Roundabout – the site of an eerily similar conversation 21 years earlier (published January 18, 2002).

"Nothing has changed," Cllr Keith said.

"And in many ways, it's actually gotten worse.

"It's really sad we've still got to carry on and reignite the campaign.

"But we're determined to do that, and I'm sure the Northern Scot is after the great role that it played in the past."

Cllr Keith, also a councillor when he spoke to the 'Scot' in 2002, was closely involved in the Elgin Bypass campaign, through the Moray Trades Union Congress (MTUC).

He said that, in the 11 years since the A96 Fochabers and Mosstodloch Bypass was completed, "there hasn't been an inch in Moray upgraded since."

"There has been absolutely nothing for the A96 in Moray in the last 10 years," he said.

"Like the Have a Heart – Give us a Bypass campaign said all those years ago, the artery is clogged.

"The A96 just seems to be a blockage on the whole roads network and Elgin is gradually grinding to a halt.

"The people of Elgin can't go about their business because the local road network is not up to standard."

When the A96 dualling project was announced in 2011, the Scottish Government pledged that the project would be completed by 2030.

However, many locals and opposition politicians worry that an ongoing environmental review, launched as part of an SNP Green coalition deal in August 2021, could significantly delay or scupper the project.

In January 2022, a contractor working on the A96 dualling project in Moray closed its local office as a result of the review.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We remain absolutely committed to improving the A96.

"The current plan is to fully dual the route and as part of this process we are undertaking a transparent, evidence-based review of the programme with the outcomes of this expected to be ready for consultation this summer."

Cllr Keith said the A96 dualling project had "totally disappeared" from national politics and press – in contrast to the dualling of the A9.

"If you look at the A9 at the moment, there is talk about that not being complete until after 2050," he said.

"So if they aren't event talking about the A96 at all, how long will that take?

"Dualling the A96 is absolutely essential for economic health going forward.

"And can't let it slip off the agenda. We really need to get things moving."

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