TRANSPORT minister Jenny Gilruth has said dualling the A9 by the 2025 deadline set by the Scottish Government is "unachievable".

In a statement to Holyrood on Wednesday, the SNP MSP said the commitment to the dualling programme remains "absolute".

She explained that a procurement round for the Tomatin to Moy section of the road ended with only one bid "significantly higher" than the £115 million estimate and "would not represent value for the taxpayer".

Gilruth said the initial date was an "ambitious challenge" but that she will update with a new target date and timescale in autumn after a review by Transport Scotland.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond faces criticism for calling self-ID 'daft ideology'

Bids for the Tomatin-Moy section of the A9 will now have to be re-tendered due to the high cost of the single bid for the project. 

Gilruth told MSPs that in December 2021 three bidders were invited to take part in a procurement exercise with the final tenders to be submitted by October that year. 

She said: "This coincided with external factors including the pandemic, disruption caused by Brexit, and the war in Ukraine with the inflationary impacts all of those impacting of course significantly on the construction market.

"Unfortunately, the final return yielded only one tender submission.

The National: Gilruth said the 2025 target date for dualling the A9 was 'simply unachievable'Gilruth said the 2025 target date for dualling the A9 was 'simply unachievable' (Image: Newsquest)

"You will note the anticipated cost of the construction contract was £115m at the time.

"Following careful consideration of the tender the price of which was significantly higher than expected, even allowing for the real world impact of the volatile economy, ministers have concluded that awarding the contract at this time would not represent best value for the taxpayer at any time, but particularly in the current climate, protecting public finances is an essential part of responsible government."

Gilruth also noted the original date for completion of the dualling was 2025, but said this is now "simply no longer achievable". 

READ MORE: Douglas Ross urged to publish more tax returns after one-year 'cop out'

She added: "However, I will set out a revised timescale as soon as possible, seeking to minimize delay as far as possible.

"It is true that the target date originally set was always an ambitious challenge.

"It was also reliant on the timely and positive outcome of a range of factors, for example, completing public and stakeholder consultation statutory approval processes, market capacity supply chain availability and of course the availability of funding, all of which have been significantly impacted by the events outlined earlier. That has made 2025 deadline simply unachievable."

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said that during the SNP’s time in office, just 10 miles out of 80 between Perth and Inverness have been dualled.

The National: Murdo Fraser criticised the SNP over the A9 decisionMurdo Fraser criticised the SNP over the A9 decision

He said: “Actions speak louder than words. Last year 12 people lost their lives in single-carriageway sections of the A9.

“More people will die this year, and the next and the year after as this SNP promise is not delivered.”

Rhoda Grant, Scottish Labour MSP, said: “This is a total betrayal of the Highlands, a broken promise which I wonder if the Government ever intended to keep.”

Gilruth said the result of the tendering process had been “unusual” and the Government is keen to re-tender the contract.

READ MORE: Lords guzzled 300 bottles of bubbly and wine as economy tanked

She also highlighted work on road safety the Government is carrying out on the route.

Meanwhile, SNP MSP Emma Roddick said she shares the disappointment many people in the region will be feeling.

She said: “I can’t overstate how difficult it will be for locals to believe that this project will be carried out in the face of another delay.”

Her SNP colleague Fergus Ewing said people in the Highlands would react with “shock, incredulity and anger”.

He said the design of Transport Scotland’s contracts had made the tendering process unattractive for contractors.

Gilruth said there had been keen interest at the beginning of the process.

One of the interested contractors withdrew on the day of submission, she said, leaving only one bid remaining.