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Bad infrastructure risks economy, says ICE Scotland

The economy is at risk because Scotland’s infrastructure is in need of repair and modernisation, engineers have said.

Significant investment is needed for the transport network and the energy and water supply systems to ensure the economy recovers from recession, according to a report by ICE Scotland.

Its latest State Of The Nation report graded six crucial elements of the country’s infrastructure: water; transport; waste; energy; education and skills; and managing flood risk.

A grade A means it is “fit for the future”, while down to a grade E means the infrastructure is “unfit for purpose”.

The water industry scored the highest with a B, meaning “adequate for now”. All other areas of infrastructure “required attention” with a C grade.

Education and skills were not graded but the report said more apprenticeships were needed in the construction industry.

The report highlighted the the fact the Scotland relies on five ageing power stations: two coal, one gas and two nuclear, supplying about 80% of demand. The report said these stations will close within 15 years if if no “massive environmental investment” is forthcoming.

New electric cars will increase electricity demand by 50% by 2030, it said.

Scotland’s deteriorating roads also threaten economic growth, the report pointed out, calling for an immediate increase in funding for road maintenance budgets at local authorities.

Between 2008 and 2010 the cost of the combined backlog of road maintenance work by councils increased by 12% to about £1.7bn, while annual maintenance budgets just to keep roads in the condition they were in during 2009 need to increase by £47.5M.

ICE Scotland chairman Ken Laing said: “The last thing we want to see is our infrastructure being stifled by lack of investment, and it’s clear from our State Of The Nation report that this is what is required across all sectors.

“If you look at energy, electricity demand will rise by more than 50% over the next 20 years, and yet more than 80% of electricity is supplied by five ageing power stations with very limited lifespans.

“We are making good progress with a number of new road schemes but the condition of our existing roads is continuing to deteriorate.”

He called for greater borrowing powers to be given to the Scottish government in order to create a “high-quality infrastructure”.

He said: “When faced with investment choices, government has to recognise that without the foundation of good infrastructure, Scotland’s economic development is at risk.”

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