The Scottish Government has confirmed its support for a new Forth bridge in its draft Budget which has been published today, despite a cut in the Government’s capital budget of almost a quarter.
Finance secretary John Swinney has also announced that £2.5bn of capital infrastructure projects will go ahead through the Scottish Futures Trust.
Announcing that the Scottish Government’s capital budget would fall by 24% following the Comprehensive Spending Review, Swinney also announced that £100M will be transferred from this year’s budget to next year. This, he said, would enable the planned capital programme to go ahead, including the Forth Replacement Crossing – spending for which in the next financial year is budgeted to be £200M.
The projects that will be taken forward by the Scottish Futures Trust, using a non profit distributing model of the private finance initiative, will include the Borders Railway project, valued at £230-£290M. The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and the dualling of the A90 between Balmedie and Tippety will also go ahead, with a value of between £350-£450M, as will improvements to the motorway network including an upgrade of the M8 between Baillieston and Newhouse, an upgrade of the Raith Junction of the M74 and further improvements to 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 capital.
However, Swinney told the Scottish Parliament that funding for the maintenance of the motorway and trunk road network “has been reduced”.
“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 cut in network strengthening and improvement budget from £56.4M this year to £15M next year, while the budget for other road improvements is cut 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. He said: “To support the recovery, we are prioritising our efforts to increase employment, strengthen education and skills, and promote new business growth.
“In this Budget we have had to make difficult choices. Not because of actions taken in Scotland, but because of decisions taken by Westminster.
“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 news that Scotland is to divert extra money into its capital budget to boost the construction industry.
“This extra funding will support the construction industry through an extremely difficult time and enable it to play a central role in delivering jobs and growth for Scotland,” said ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin.
“ACE Scotland will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure appropriate priorities are given to construction projects as a platform for economic regeneration across Scotland,” he said.