HC Deb 14 March 1973 vol 852 cc1273-4
9. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what reroutings of the A9 north of Tain he will propose.

Mr. Younger

My right hon. Friend will be willing to consider rerouting trunk road A9 to cross the Dornoch Firth as soon as he can find a place for this scheme in the road programme.

Mr. Maclennan

I hope that that reply is encouraging, although I am afraid that it is couched in ambiguity. Has the hon. Gentleman noticed that the total population of Sutherland has fallen in the last two years from about 13,000 to about 12.000, that this is largely due to people being unable to live in Sutherland and commute to the growth area in Easter Ross and that this has now become a matter of the viability of Sutherland as a community? Does he not realise that delay in this matter will lead to the most appalling clearance of the population of this country? Will he now take an entirely fresh look at the problem?

Mr. Younger

I can appreciate the hon. Member's feelings about this as it affects his constituency in the way he has described. I would certainly be only too willing to consider any new evidence produced by the steering committee which has been set up on this matter. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are spending a vast amount of money on the whole of the A9 including the crossings of two other firths. We must make progress before we can definitely fix a place for this in the programme, although I recognise that it is very desirable.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Given the Minister's fixed commitments in the road programme, when is the earliest that he could authorise this?

Mr. Younger

It is not possible to say, but we have announced plans for the rebuilding of the whole of the A9 at what is a very fast speed—namely, to complete the task in five years, which is faster than any such scheme has been completed before. We have already set in train the crossing of two firths. I hope hon. Members recognise that that is a pretty good effort by any standard.