Scotland's £33bn infrastructure plan - a significant step forward

Resilience and sustainability are at the heart of Scottish Government priorities, but we need a strategic approach.

The Forth Bridge, Scotland. Image credit: Aline Dassel/Pixabay.
The Forth Bridge, Scotland. Image credit: Aline Dassel/Pixabay.
  • Updated: 16 February, 2021
  • Author: Hannah Smith, Director of ICE Scotland

Following a period of consultation in 2020, the Scottish Government has now officially published its Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP), committing £33bn to Scotland’s infrastructure. 

The plan sets out Scottish Government’s infrastructure priorities over the next five years while the Capital Spending Review, published in unison, details investment for the next parliamentary term.  

In line with work from ICE Scotland over the past 12months, the publications place resilience and sustainability firmly at the centre of infrastructure ambitions.  
 

"Infrastructure Vision: Our infrastructure supports Scotland’s resilience and enables inclusive, net zero and sustainable growth.”

Scottish Government

A broad definition of infrastructure  

In line with recommendations from the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland, the IIP further broadens the Scottish Government’s definition of infrastructure to include natural infrastructure.  

Consequently, Scotland now has one of the broadest definitions of infrastructure globally, spanning physical, digital, social, and now natural infrastructure assets.   

In the Scottish Government’s view, “the inclusion of natural infrastructure in our revised definition, creates a more holistic view of the entirety of Scotland’s infrastructure assets and recognises the wider contribution natural capital can have towards creating sustainable, attractive places to live and improve wellbeing; generating economic growth and also reducing carbon emissions.” 



Shaping Zero - The film


Prioritising enhancing and maintaining infrastructure  

Following ICE Scotland proposals for a ‘Repair, Maintain, Enhance’ infrastructure programme, the IIP brings forward a new investment hierarchy which prioritises maintaining and enhancing assets over new build.   

To enable this, the Scottish Government has committed to addressing backlogs and doubling investment in maintenance and enhancement over the next five years. 


Image credit: A National Mission With Local Impact: Infrastructure Investment Plan for Scotland 2021-22 to 2025-26.

Resilience and sustainability at the heart of the plan  

Threaded across the IIP is a recognition of the need both for resilient and sustainable infrastructure.  

Given the Scottish Government’s infrastructure vision, ambitious net-zero carbon emissions targets and COP 26 due to be held in Glasgow in late 2021, it was widely anticipated that sustainability would feature heavily in this round of infrastructure planning. 

Among other measures, the IIP brings forward an £180m Emerging Energy Technologies Fund, £120m for net-zero buses and £1.6bn to decarbonise heat in buildings.  
 
ICE Scotland’s 2020 State of the Nation Report: Climate Ready Infrastructure (which set out the pressing need to adapt our assets in light of climate chance impacts, and which was submitted as evidence to the draft IIP) the IIP considers how extreme weather events, driven by climate change, will impact Scotland’s infrastructure and how this can be addressed.

Adaptation and resilience investment proposals in the plan include:  

  • £150m for flood risk management;
  • £1.2bn to enhance Scotland’s railways;
  • Almost £12m in coastal change adaptation; and
  • £60 million to support climate adaptation and resilience measures on the trunk road network.

The value of a strategic approach 

ICE Scotland has long called for more emphasis to be placed on looking after the infrastructure that we have. Given the climate-driven impacts on Scotland’s assets, the need to build resilience into our extant assets has never been greater. The emphasis on resilience, adaptation and maintenance set out by the Scottish Government is therefore very welcome.  
 

In our view, conducting a strategic resilience audit would be the best way to develop the proposals set out in the IIP

ICE Scotland

 We know that the best infrastructure outcomes are delivered when we work holistically across sectors and when we take a strategic approach to investment.  

In our view, conducting a strategic resilience audit would be the best way to develop the proposals set out in the IIP.   

Identifying priorities for action and the most meaningful interventions would help direct Scottish Government’s spending commitments to where they can make the biggest impact on Scotland’s infrastructure landscape.  

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