SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENT in Scotland's infrastructure is promised by all three of the leading parties in the upcoming elections to the country's devolved Parliament.
Labour's manifesto for the 6 May election emphasises the eight privately financed hospitals due for construction in Scotland, and the £500M investment in the country's schools.
The only significant new policy appears to be the launch of the Scottish Employment Partnership, which the manifesto claims will deliver '10,000 construction jobs'. Few details about the scheme were available as NCE went to press.
The manifesto of Labour's main challenger, the Scottish National Party, attacks the Private Finance Initiative, which it claims makes 'the public sector pay over the odds for new schools and hospitals while losing ownership over the new building'. It claims that the new £180M Edinburgh Royal Infirmary 'will cost taxpayers £900M over the next thirty years.'
Instead the SNP wants to set up a 'Scottish Public Service Trust' to 'oversee investment in the public sector'. The Trust would seek 'the most competitive finance', raising additional funds through bond issues. It would hold the assets 'in trust' during construction and the initial stages of operation.
The SNP also confirmed that it would return Scotland's water sector to local authorities (NCE 24 September 1998), scrap the tolls on the Skye Bridge and oppose their introduction on 'our main arterial roads' (NCE 22 October 1998).
Congestion charging schemes get the thumbs up if the funds can be ploughed into public transport.
The SNP also wants to electrify the Edinburgh to Aberdeen railway line and rebuild the Borders railway.
The Liberal Democrats promise a four year, £400M 'schools capital investment programme' and 'a national infrastructure strategy for Scotland' with an emphasis on transport and telecommunications.
They want to reopen disused railway lines, upgrade existing ones and promote light rail schemes in Glasgow and Edinburgh.