Infrastructure Commission needs cross-party involvement, says ICE Scotland

Scotland’s civil engineers want greater consensus and long-term thinking for infrastructure planning.

Scotland’s proposed Infrastructure Commission should have cross-party representation to ensure a long-term consistent approach to infrastructure planning, said the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Scotland.

The Institution has made recommendations about the role and direction of the body, announced by the Scottish government last month, to identify key strategic investments to boost economic growth and support public services.

The recommendations are part of State of the Nation Scotland 2018: Infrastructure Investment (SoN), which was launched today. It explores opportunities for future investment and opens a conversation about how the nation’s infrastructure can be better planned and funded. 

SoN Scotland recommendations

To achieve its strategic objectives, ICE believes that the Infrastructure Commission needs to be independent, evidence-led, and undertake a comprehensive assessment of Scotland's infrastructure needs now and in the future. 

Other key recommendations in the report include calling for the Scottish government to declare long-term asset planning and maintenance as a National Infrastructure Priority.

It also advised that the
 Scottish government, infrastructure clients and industry should work together to address the problems associated with transactional industry contract models and ensure that risks in delivering public infrastructure projects are allocated fairly and appropriately.

Targeted, long-term investment

Mac West, Chair of the SoN steering group, said that infrastructure investment needs to be "targeted", so that effective solutions to challenges such as climate change, shifting demographic profiles, and ongoing pressure on resources can be found. 

"A long-term, shared vision for infrastructure – which is properly resourced - can help us to deliver best value from out investments, driving improved productivity and inclusive growth," he said. 

West added that to deliver this, the sector must be willing to explore a broad range of options to pay for the infrastructure needed, through its whole lifetime. 
Jim Young, Chair of ICE Scotland, added that competition for limited funding is putting pressure on the country's infrastructure services. 

“Productivity in Scotland is not as strong as it needs to be to ensure a prosperous future," he said.

"Predictable, resilient infrastructure systems which underpin thriving businesses and people’s day-to-day lives, are vital both now and for the future.

"Evidence-led prioritisation of investment, and a mature relationship between public-sector infrastructure clients and the construction industry is essential to deliver this.”

Scotland’s future infrastructure spend

The need for debate about future infrastructure spending is particularly timely considering the conversations around how the £7bn of additional infrastructure spending promised by the Scottish government should be prioritised.

The OECD recommendation is that by 2030, global infrastructure spending should be 3.5% of world annual GDP.

Currently Scotland and the UK invest around 2.5%, below the 3% OECD average.

The report states that it's important there's a healthy mix of public and private investment to ensure a diverse range of financing streams and enable the benefits of delivering vital social and economic infrastructure.   

Pay as you go road tax

One of the report's key recommendations is that the UK and Scottish government should consider a pay-as-you-go model of road taxation, to replace the likely loss of income from the existing model as the country moves towards a largely electric car fleet.  

More than half the Scottish population (52%) would support the introduction of a pay-as-you-go model on the busiest roads, if it were to replace Vehicle Tax and Fuel Duty, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by ICE.

This rose to 55% if a ‘pay as you go’ meant more money would be spent improving and maintaining local roads.

This compares to less than a quarter (23%) who opposed the idea, and 25% who were either undecided or didn't have an opinion either way.   
The report’s findings and recommendations are based on discussions, conversations and workshops with professionals and stakeholders. 

As well as civil engineers, the panel consulted with experts from the wider infrastructure sector, and the investment community.   

You can read more about the recommendations on the Infrastructure Blog.

Download the report