Michael Matheson: The role of infrastructure in a sustainable economy



Infrastructure secretary Michael Matheson discusses the ongoing work of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland.

Michael Matheson MSP

Infrastructure investment plays a critical role in creating an inclusive, sustainable economy. In December, I established the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland (ICS) to provide independent advice on the right vision, ambition and priorities for a 30-year strategy for infrastructure in Scotland to meet our future economic growth and societal needs.

Over the course of 2018-19, infrastructure projects worth more than £1.4 billion were completed and opened to the public. These include the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, the V&A Museum in Dundee, the electrification of 100 kilometres of single-track rail line from Dunblane through Stirling and Alloa, and 19 new school projects. All of these demonstrate the positive impact that infrastructure can bring about in people’s lives: improving the quality of the environment, as well as the cultural, economic, social and learning contribution that they can make.

Looking ahead, the Scottish Government’s £5 billion commitment to infrastructure investment in 2019-20 will support 50,000 affordable new homes, delivery of the extension of early learning and childcare, new roads and railways, electric vehicles and delivery of superfast broadband across Scotland. The Scottish Government has also committed to increase our annual infrastructure investment by 1% of 2017  GDP by the end of the next Parliament, helping to protect and create jobs, and boost growth across the country.

The ICS will advise on the key strategic and early foundation investments that are needed to significantly boost economic growth and support the delivery of Scotland’s low carbon objectives and achievement of its climate change targets. The Advisory Commission will report on infrastructure ambitions and priorities by the end of 2019, and may make interim recommendations, for example around guiding principles supporting the evolution of a coherent Infrastructure Investment Plan across sectors.

The first phase of consultation and engagement work is well underway with the initial call for evidence closing at the start of May. The Commission will continue to engage widely across Scotland during 2019 as it develops its independent advice on future strategic priorities, due by the end of the year. This advice will support Scottish Government to develop a sound future investment strategy in 2020 in the next Infrastructure Investment Plan.

The Scottish Government’s response to the ICS highlights our existing strategies and the key issues we are examining to evolve the best future policies.

I also highlight the important advice published on 2nd May by the Committee on Climate Change. The Scottish Government has acted immediately to lodge amendments to the current Climate Change (Emissions Reductions Target) (Scotland) Bill in line with this advice. If agreed by Parliament, the new targets mean that Scotland must be carbon-neutral by 2040, and achieve net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. Delivering Scotland’s climate targets will require reinforcement and a much more efficient and ‘smart’ use of the infrastructure we have now, as well as some wholly new infrastructure. The Scottish Government is now looking across our whole range of responsibilities to make sure we continue with the policies that are working and increase action where necessary. We have already almost halved emissions since 1990 while growing the economy, increasing employment and productivity. We will continue in this vein.

I encourage all those with an interest to contribute to the Commission’s next phase of engagement which is planned to take place across Scotland and involve a wide range of groups and civic society. Please contact the Commission at enquiries@infrastructurecommission.scot to find out about more ways to engage.



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