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New Forth Bridge escapes spending cuts

Scotland’s government has confirmed its support for a new Forth road bridge in its draft Budget published last week.

This is despite a near 25% cut in the government’s capital budget.

Finance secretary John Swinney has also announced that £2.5bn of capital infrastructure projects will go ahead through the Scottish Futures Trust, a company set up to broker non-profit making privately financed concession agreements.

Announcing that the Scottish Government’s capital budget would fall by 24% following the UK government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, Swinney also announced that £100M would be transferred from this year’s budget to next year.

Capital programme

This, he said, would enable the planned capital programme to go ahead, including the Forth Replacement Crossing – which is expected to absorb £200M next year.

The projects that will be taken forward by the Scottish Futures Trust include the Borders Railway project, valued at £230M to £290M.

The £350M to £450M project to build the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and dual the A90 between Balmedie and Tippety will also go ahead.

Improvements to the motorway network, including an upgrade of the M8 between Baillieston and Newhouse, will also proceed, as will an upgrade of the Raith Junction of the M74 and further improvements to the M8, M73 and M74 motorways valued at around £320M. Funding for these projects will come from transferring some of the government’s spending from the day to day revenue budget to its capital budget.

Apology

But Swinney apologised for the overall cut in capital funding.

“This decision has been difficult and will have an impact and I make no claims to the contrary,” he said. The budget document shows a massive cut in the network strengthening and improvement budget from £56.4M this year to £15M next year, while the budget for other road improvements is more than halved from £49.7M to £24.2M.

Swinney also outlined that the Scottish public sector will be asked to make 3% savings in the next year.

“In this budget we have had to make difficult choices. Not because of actions taken in Scotland, but because of decisions taken by Westminster,” said Swinney.

“We’re setting out one-year, specific budget proposals that will address the most significant reduction in public expenditure that Scotland has ever faced since devolution. Our pipeline of infrastructure projects will see continued investment into the medium term.”

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) welcomed the decision to switch money into Scotland’s capital budget to boost the construction industry. “This extra funding will support the construction industry through an extremely difficult time,” said ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin.

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