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Greater spending urgency

Covid ‘should force faster action on infrastructure’


Infrastructure plan: Ian Russell with Michael Matheson

Spending on Scotland’s infrastructure should be speeded up because of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, according to a government-commissioned inquiry.

The virus’s affect on employment and travel has placed a greater urgency on the need for investment decisions in skills development and planning the transport network, it says.

Investment in skills development will need to be quickened as some jobs disappear and others replace them.

With more people working from home it may mean that instead of building more roads, it may mean “repurposing” the existing network and making greater provision for cycling, walking and public transport.

The Infrastructure Commission for Scotland’s final report ‘Delivery Findings – A blueprint for Scotland’, published today, builds on its initial ‘Key Findings’ report in January.

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It says the importance of delivering an inclusive, net-zero carbon economy has been “amplified” by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To achieve a range of recommendations it says an independent specialist organisation should be set up outside the political decision-making system to enable it to operate in an arms-length and transparent way.

“This would allow the body to challenge Government while also undertaking tactical public engagement to inform the long-term strategy,” it says.

After careful consideration, the Commission has concluded that none of the outcomes of its recommendations would be enhanced by creation of a Scottish National Infrastructure Company.

Former ScottishPower CEO Ian Russell, who chaired the commission, said it had drawn on the experience of New Zealand which had undergone a similar exercise and applied a new accord between the public and private sector to help develop skills and build more affordable housing.

The ICS says a similar new accord in Scotland, particularly in construction, would focus less on issues such as price and more on quality and creating rewarding careers.

Mr Russell said that implementing the commission’s recommendations “will make a significant contribution to the successful creation of an inclusive net zero carbon economy” and “are designed to galvanise and accelerate action by all involved with infrastructure in Scotland.”

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Infrastructure Secretary Michael Matheson, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented global crisis which has fundamentally changed every aspect of our lives.

“Infrastructure will play a critical role in the years ahead as we plan our strategic economic recovery from the pandemic.

“The Commission’s Phase 1 report has already helped to shape our next 5 year Infrastructure Investment Plan, details of which I look forward to announcing in September. This Plan will incorporate a response to the Commission’s Phase 1 findings.”

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