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Comment | Scottish manifesto

Sara Thiam

The Scottish Government “gets” infrastructure. In the 16 years since taking control of the country’s networks it has invested heavily in connecting Scotland’s cities, and upgrading the rail network, including the new Borders Railway.

The new Queensferry Crossing across the Firth of Forth is the most eye-catching feature of this investment, which safeguards and improves vital connections in Scotland’s transport network. Improvements in drinking water quality and flood prevention also form part of the investment, which has driven consistent economic growth since mid-2012. Even in energy, which is reserved to Westminster, Scotland has done what it can to drive a renewables revolution using planning policy and setting ambitious carbon reduction targets. 

But as the financial settlement underpinning the further powers to the Scottish Parliament is agreed and several key infrastructure projects reach completion, how will infrastructure investment fare during the next Scottish Parliament?

In common with other developed countries, Scotland has a growing and ageing population, growing cities, and more frequent extreme weather events. These issues are already increasing pressure on our networks, changing how people use them and putting a strain on the resources available to fund them. We need to be confident that the right infrastructure – and the people to design, build and maintain it – are in place. Failure to commit to future infrastructure investment will further increase such pressures.

ICE Scotland’s 2015 State of the Nation report highlighted sectors requiring attention while our new Manifesto lays out a vision of what needs to be done to ensure Scotland has networks fit for the future, with three key asks for policy makers.

Resilience is top of the list – our networks must be able to cope with future challenges such as climate and demographic change. 

The events of recent months, including flooding in Aberdeenshire and the Borders and closures of the Forth Road Bridge and M8 motorway, have underlined the importance of maintenance investment and tested our resilience plans.

The infrastructure pipeline comes next, with calls from business leaders, economic think tanks and environmental campaigners for a Scottish Infrastructure Commission. A long-term, cross party vision for infrastructure, underpinned by sustainable investment and delivering maximum value for public money is the aspiration here.

Finally, we stress the need to ensure we have enough civil engineers to design, build and maintain our future infrastructure by investing in skills. Recent years have seen a drop off in the numbers of young people pursuing a career in civil engineering at college or university in Scotland and the lack of diversity in the industry is reducing the talent pool further.

Our Manifesto sets out a 10 point plan of how these commitments can be delivered. It forms part of a series of Manifestos from across the UK reflecting the devolved nature of much of the UK’s infrastructure decision making. 

What each of these Manifestos have in common is the clear call for each of our administrations to commit to infrastructure. 

Get involved with ICE’s #Commit2Infra debate on Twitter. 

Sara Thiam is ICE Scotland director

 

 

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