Sir John, also a member of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and chair of the National Needs Assessment project, is set to address the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) Forum 2016 in St Andrews.
He will set out the relevance of the current consultation into the NIC’s remit to Scotland, and say he welcomes debate from all parties and industry on Scotland’s future infrastructure governance. Both the SCDI and ICE Scotland, in its recent Manifesto for Infrastructure, have discussed the need for Scotland to establish its own Infrastructure Commission.
Sir John will also outline the role of infrastructure in helping to deliver a “fourth industrial revolution” in Scotland and beyond, and welcome SCDI’s plans for infrastructure to sit at the heart of this vision. But he will warn that the future of infrastructure development is far from clear and should not be taken for granted.
Speaking prior to his address, Sir John Armitt said: “Many of Scotland’s major capital-investment projects are due for completion by the end of the decade. While this much-needed investment in vital networks is welcome, what happens thereafter is not clear.
“What is clear is that Scotland faces a growing and aging population, growing cities, and more frequent extreme weather events. As shown in ICE’s recent State of the Nation report on Scotland’s infrastructure, these issues are already increasing pressure on our networks, changing how people use them and putting a strain on the resources available to fund them.
“Maintenance of existing infrastructure is also under-prioritised and the recent closures of the Forth Road Bridge and West Coast Main Line, and the flooding in Aberdeenshire, showed us how significant the impact can be when key infrastructure assets are compromised.
“Adding to that, we have an acknowledged STEM skills gap - including a deficit of 180 civil engineers per year just to meet Scotland’s existing needs.”
Sir John will also discuss the debate around greater devolution to Scotland and the impact this will have on infrastructure delivery. ICE is currently gathering evidence for its next State of the Nation report, which will set out the risks and opportunities devolution poses to the UK’s core infrastructure sectors – energy, transport, water, waste, digital infrastructure and flooding.
Sir John Armitt will address the SCDI Forum at 9.20am tomorrow morning, Friday 18th March, 2016.
Ross Martin, Chief Executive, SCDI said: "If we are to improve our productivity rates, and thereby effect a step change in our economic performance, Scotland's infrastructure must be robust, resilient and increasingly smart.
“In addition to lacking some basic elements of economic infrastructure, such as obvious gaps or deficiencies in the transport network which need upgraded, we must also build in greater resilience to ensure that if one part of the system goes down then we are agile enough to work around that fracture. For example, when the Forth Road Bridge closed, although we quickly managed to put in place travel alternatives, the low rate of modal shift clearly demonstrated a lack of public confidence in the adaptability of the system. The resilience of our wider economic infrastructure relies upon so much more than physical alternatives, it needs to carry public confidence regarding agile alternatives."