The Scottish Government has unveiled a £24 billion infrastructure plan to be rolled out in the next five years.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Secretary Michael Matheson said the plan will focus on three main themes – the transition to net-zero, boosting the economy and “building resilient and sustainable places”.
The plan is part of the delivery of the Government’s £33.5 billion National Infrastructure Mission, which aims to create 45,000 jobs.
To meet the Scottish Government’s 2045 net-zero target, the plan allocates £500 million for active travel, £350 million for an 18,000-hectare increase to forest cover and £1.5 billion to decarbonise heat – as announced in the Programme for Government.
In a bid to increase “inclusive economic growth”, the plan proposes a £1.5 billion programme of improvements to roads and bridges, as well as including the already announced £100 million for the R100 broadband project and £525 million for city growth deals.
A £2.8 billion investment over the next five years was also announced to build more social and affordable homes in Scotland, along with £4 billion to improve and maintain water infrastructure and £2 billion for the school estate.
Mr Matheson said: “While this is a five-year plan, it builds the foundation of a stronger Scotland for decades to come, a Scotland that will harness new opportunities and is resilient to future challenges.
“It will steer the investments that will help our short-term response to Covid-19 and our longer term recovery and it will drive innovation, ensure access to growing global markets, create good, sustainable jobs and support a just and fair transition to our net-zero emissions and wellbeing economy.”
The draft plan will now enter a consultation period the minister said he hopes will “ensure a final approach that benefits the whole of Scotland both now and in the future”.
Tory MSP Graham Simpson described the plan as “pretty unambitious and lacking in detail”, but added: “I agree with the Cabinet Secretary that we do need to invest in infrastructure, we do need to level up the economy.”
Mr Simpson said there are still projects outstanding from the last infrastructure plan and not enough detail on new projects is included, including if there will be any new roads built.
He added: “I think he should probably be apologising to communities across Scotland who will be left out by this.
“When’s he going to come up with any detail on any of this?”
Mr Matheson said the plan contained “the most ambitious level of investment in infrastructure of any part of the UK”.
He added: “I can assure the member that it’s not the case that it’s not ambitious, it’s exactly the opposite.”
Labour MSP Colin Smyth asked what will be done to ensure there will not be delays as there were in previous projects, along with assurances that firms responsible for the delays or subpar infrastructure will not be given contracts again.
Mr Matheson said: “What I can assure the member is that the investment hierarchy that was set out in the infrastructure investment plan… is one that is based on how we can make better use of our existing assets and how we can enhance them more effectively to make greater use of them.”