Lord James is supporting the published plans for the 4.5 km bypass of Keith, which follows on from the recent decision to award the construction contract for two major bypasses on the A96 - at Kintore and Blackburn - at a cost of approximately 20 million.
The Minister said:
'The A96 from Aberdeen to Inverness is an important economic artery in the north of Scotland, and is heavily used by both industry and tourists.
'In particular, we have been keen to provide relief for pressing traffic-related environmental problems, such as towns in need of a bypass, and this development, added to our recent announcements on Fochabers, Kintore and Blackburn, would help to achieve that.
'The Keith bypass would involve around 4.5 km of new single carriageway which will incorporate climbing-lane sections to facilitate safe overtaking opportunities.
'The plans incorporate two major bridges - one over the River Isla Valley and the other crossing the Aberdeen-Inverness railway and A95 road where they lie alongside each other to the North West of Keith.
'The existing A96 through Keith is both intrusive to the environment of the town and longer than the route of the bypass.
'Not including the recently started bypasses of Kintore and Blackburn,£41m has already been spent on improving driving conditions and road safety on the A96.
'Although a commitment cannot yet be made to constructing the Keith Bypass, the announcement of a decision of the line follows the Government's six point plan in bringing forward the planning for the route as resources permit.'