The Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2016-17 (“the Programme”), which was delivered to MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday 6 September, sets out the actions the Government intends to take in the forthcoming year and beyond.
“The Programme for Government focuses on the key legislative and practical steps that the Government will take – a full programme of new Bills and a host of other actions – to continue the process of making Scotland a better place.”
While the legislative plans focus mainly on business and education, the Programme also introduces the Scottish Government’s infrastructure and spending plans for the year ahead with a commitment to invest £20 billion in infrastructure in areas such as transport; housing; health; education and energy, as well as boosting digital connectivity. The Programme states that this investment in public infrastructure will provide “vital support for our construction and service sectors” in the post- Brexit climate of uncertainty.
Details on the £100 million allocated last month to bring forward certain infrastructure projects were also unveiled. This accelerated capital funding is being allocated towards projects which have been selected because of, amongst other things, the immediate economic benefits and jobs they offer. These projects include:
- £10 million for domestic energy efficiency measures
- £10 million to make public sector buildings more energy efficient
- £1.3 million to support Higher Education research, securing match-funding from the UK Government
- £3.13 million on rail projects (including wi-fi and air conditioning improvements, passenger counting
- equipment, ticket vending machines and ticket office at Blairhill£0.5 million on supporting business access to the Digital Internet Exchange
- £10 million to support the delivery of capital projects for local economic development
- £0.57 million for Clyde Gateway by supporting the Dalmarnock Industrial Park power upgrade
- £23 million to support the maintenance of the Higher Education estate across Scotland (expected to be match-funded by the sector)
- £15 million towards trunk road maintenance
- £10 million to support maintenance of the Further Education estate
- £3.5 million for refurbishment of Inverclyde Hospital and Glasgow Royal Infirmary
- £2 million for Scottish Fire and Rescue Service estate maintenance
- £2 million to improve the Police Scotland estate maintenance
- £2 million for Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service estate maintenance
- £2 million for Historic Environment Scotland investment in properties in care.
The Strategic Transport Projects Review will be reviewed in alignment with the National Planning Framework to enable a comprehensive review of national infrastructure projects. It is expected that significant investment will continue with £1.4billion to be invested in the road network which includes work to dual the A9 and A96. A further analysis of the Strategic Transport Projects Review will enable a comprehensive review of projects such as improvements to the A77 south of Girvan and the possibility of connecting the M74 and Dumfries. Investment in rail will also continue through key rail projects including improvements to the Highland Main Line and the redevelopment of Dundee Station. The Government intends to look at reducing journey times between Scotland and England, and a possible extension of the new Borders railway will also be considered.
With too few affordable homes, the country is on the brink of a housing crisis. The government has responded by pledging to invest £3 billion to build 50,000 affordable homes over this parliament with more than £570million set aside for investment this financial year. Local authorities have also been allocated a share of a £406million grant subsidy to deliver more affordable homes in 2016-17.
In addition a new energy strategy, Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme, which is due to commence in 2018, aims to improve the energy efficiency of building stock over the long-term.
It is expected that the Planning Bill will make an early appearance which, according to the Programme, will maintain the Government’s commitment to a “strong, high-performing system that enables housing and infrastructure delivery…”
A transformational investment for Scotland has been promised, to be achieved by modernising digital networks. The Scottish Minister confirmed that £90million will be invested to ensure “superfast broadband access to at least 95% of premises in Scotland by the end of 2017 and 100% by 2021.”
A range of delivery partners will be needed for all of these projects. There are question marks as to how the Scottish Government is going to deliver and drive the Programme forward with numerous blueprints, reviews and consultations still to come. That said, £20 billion is a welcome amount, and right now any investment would be a key step towards helping build Scotland’s future. Of course, not all projects will take off but some will so now is the time for those involved in infrastructure to position themselves in such a way that they are ready to take advantage of whatever priorities the Scottish Government decides upon.