£4bn boost for Scottish infrastructure

The Scottish Government’s 2016-17 Draft Budget has pledged around £4 billion infrastructure investment over the next year. This investment will be spent on house building, transport and digital links, among other projects. Here, BiP journalist Julie Shennan talks with DTL Chief Executive of UK Training Chris Wood about the opportunities and challenges this could bring.

The 2016-17 Draft Budget has pledged:

  • £1 billion investment in roads and transport projects, including the electrification of the Edinburgh-Glasgow rail line and continuing work on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.
  • Around £690 million investment in housing supply including an increase of around £90 million in affordable housing supply year on year – the first step in the Scottish Government’s commitment to provide 50,000 new affordable homes by 2020-21
  • Further investment in total of more than £130 million for Scotland’s digital strategy, to give 95 per cent of premises in Scotland access to next generation broadband by 2017 and enhance mobile coverage.
  • Completion of the Queensferry Crossing.

These infrastructure plans remain to be confirmed in the Scottish Government Spending Review, later in the year. This publication has been delayed by the late release of the UK Spending Review, which was published on 27 Nov 2015.

Scottish Ministers continue to discuss the fiscal framework that will underpin future Scottish Block Grants from the UK as part of the Scotland Bill. Any agreement will have a material impact on the powers and resources available to Scotland.

Scottish Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said: “This is a Budget to improve infrastructure and increase house building by a total of some £4 billion, and as such it as a Budget to invest in protect and extend our economic recovery.

“We have long placed considerable emphasis on public sector investment in infrastructure to stimulate economic recovery and that is what has driven much of the post-recession growth in Scotland. This Budget supports that continued growth through improving infrastructure and investing in housing to ensure all Scots can benefit from these opportunities.”

The Scottish Draft Budget infrastructure pledge comes as good news to Scottish-based training specialist DTL, whose customers include major construction, energy and water companies.

DTL Chief Executive, Chris Wood said: “Such pledges of investment are always welcome.

“For Scotland, in particular, these are essential to help the country thrive in an ever more competitive global environment.”

But Mr Wood said the pledge would need to be backed with investment in industrial training.

He said: “Not only should pledges be turned into actions, but greater consideration should also be made as to how infrastructure improvements will actually be delivered.

“There remains a significant skills gap across Scotland and the wider UK. So it would be even more reassuring to see the Scottish Government make similar pledges to help businesses provide appropriate training, apprenticeships and the skills necessary to deliver these ambitious projects on time and to a high standard.”

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