People often ask if there has been any news regarding our proposed new dual carriageway.
It is well known that the Scottish Government has committed itself to upgrade the current A 96, linking Aberdeen and Inverness. The commitment includes a pledge to make this road a dual carriageway for the whole of its length. Official discussions about the route this road should take, especially through sensitive areas, have provoked inevitable controversy.
Three main routes in the Elgin and Forres area have been suggested. One of these, referred to as "Strategy Option N", would take the dual carriageway well to the South of the towns, and through our valley, passing quite close to the monastery. If that option were to be followed, the noise of constant heavy traffic would certainly have a major impact on the peace and tranquillity of Pluscarden.
The Government initiated a lengthy consultation process about this proposal. That process continues on, and no official decision has yet been taken.
Nevertheless, what we would welcome as a positive development was announced on 26 October.
The Scottish Transport Minister Mr. Humza Yousaf has written to Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, following a recent meeting on the issue.
In the letter Mr. Yousaf said: “Having looked into this personally, and having listened to community representatives and elected members, I would say that it is highly unlikely, in my view, that "improvement strategy Option N" can be progressed as an option – but would stress that it must go through the correct assessment process in order to avoid a potential legal challenge in the future.”
Our friends who have been praying that Pluscarden be spared this new road will take comfort from this latest development. Nevertheless, the battle is not yet over, and we must continue to hope and pray that our "Option N" will indeed not "be progressed".