Shona Robison MSP
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance
I am pleased to publish the second annual progress report for our five-year Infrastructure Investment Plan. The report outlines the progress made during the last year on the Infrastructure Investment Plan's three themes: enabling net zero emissions and environmental sustainability, driving inclusive economic growth, and building resilient and sustainable places. The report also highlights key delivery achievements within the last year and activity planned for the year ahead.
The Scottish Government's prospectus – 'Equality, opportunity, community: New leadership – A fresh start' - which was published in April 2023, sets out our commitment to tackling poverty and protecting people from harm, supporting a fair, green and growing economy and prioritising our public services. The ongoing delivery of the programmes and projects set out in our Infrastructure Investment Plan helps us deliver against these missions.
Programme highlights within the last year which contribute to more than one mission include the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme, which launched the 'Let's Do Net Zero Community Buildings' fund. This provides a rolling programme of support to communities, charities, and faith organisations to decarbonise their buildings and reduce energy bills. The Scottish Central Government Energy Efficiency Grant Fund was relaunched in May 2022 to support multi-year projects and to continue to boost heat decarbonisation and improve energy efficiency across Scotland's public sector. Since relaunching, the scheme has committed £30 million of investment across 32 capital projects to be delivered over the course of three financial years. The Home Energy Scotland Grant and Loan Scheme was launched in December 2022 and offers applicants a grant, interest-free loan or combination of both to support the installation of energy efficiency measures and zero-emissions heating. The Low Carbon Manufacturing Challenge Fund was launched in May 2022 with the goal of developing new products, services or technologies that will reduce emissions, energy consumption, waste production and decrease the use of raw materials in the manufacture, and/or end use, of the existing alternative.
In Scotland, we have one of the broadest definitions of infrastructure anywhere in the world. By including the natural environment as part of our infrastructure definition, we ensure green spaces and biodiversity are considered alongside more traditional forms of infrastructure when we are making our investment decisions. We can then be confident we have a fair, green and growing economy at the centre of decision making when it comes to investing our annual capital budget.
In 2022-23, Forestry and Land Scotland acquired 3,700 hectares of new land at a total cost of around £21 million. Roughly half of this land will be plantable for trees with the remainder being managed for peatland / habitat restoration and/or ecological/recreational outcomes. Peatland restoration continues to be progressed across Scotland and during 2022-23, around 7,500 hectares of degraded peatland were put on the road to recovery. The funicular reinstatement works on Cairngorm Mountain were completed in November 2022 and, following approval of a new control system, the funicular returned to service in January 2023. Visitors are once again able to access the top of the mountain more easily, whether to enjoy snowsports or simply experience the mountain environment across the seasons in Scotland's outstanding natural environment.
Infrastructure plays a vital role in connecting our local communities, businesses and big cities, and delivering the services that we all rely upon.
We provided a record level of funding for Active Travel infrastructure and behavioural change programmes and the ChargePlace Scotland network has grown to over 2,500 public charging assets, making it the fourth largest such network in the UK.
Infrastructure plays an important, if less direct, role in helping us to tackle poverty and keep people safe. Internet access is rapidly becoming a necessity for most people, and our rural communities deserve reliable connectivity to help them be active participants in an ever-digitising world. We have extended the investment and reach of the R100 digital programme this year, and that will enable us to deliver to more premises in some of the most rural parts of Scotland. The vast majority of R100 contract build will be full fibre, capable of delivering download speeds of 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps) – over 30 times faster than our superfast commitment of 30 Mbps. Full fibre is the most future-proofed broadband technology available so this outcome will put rural Scotland ahead of the curve, even compared to many urban areas.
Our accompanying major capital projects reporting shows that during the last year, infrastructure projects worth £221 million completed construction and opened to the public. This includes the A92/A96 Haudagain Junction Improvement project in Aberdeen, the new Inverness Airport Rail Station as well as a new National Treatment Centre in the Highlands, a new Elective Orthopaedic Centre in Fife, and new community custodial units in Glasgow and Dundee. Major projects which commenced construction in 2022-23 included the Dunfermline Learning Campus in Fife and the new National Secure Adolescent Inpatient Service facility for Scotland in North Ayrshire.
The Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), published on 25 May, highlighted the challenges facing capital budgets in the coming years. Funding for capital grant, provided by the UK Government, is expected to fall by 7% in real terms between 2023-24 and 2027-28, significantly eroding the Scottish Government's spending power.
The challenging and volatile economic conditions of the last two years, coupled with UK Government spending decisions, mean that the trajectory of public capital spending exceeds the capital funding we expect to be available.
To help to address the difference between the capital funding and spending outlook, I have set out plans to publish a reset of the Infrastructure Investment Plan project pipeline, first set out in 2014, alongside the 2024-25 Budget – providing transparency over which projects may now be delivered over a longer timescale.
To do this, I will undertake a prioritisation exercise to ensure we target the available capital spending to support employment and the economy through the Scottish Government's infrastructure plans, support the achievement of net zero emissions targets and underpin the provision of high-quality public infrastructure and services across Scotland.
I am also pleased to report the progress against the recommendations made by the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland in its Key Findings and Delivery reports. The adoption of National Planning Framework 4 in February 2023 includes a dedicated 'infrastructure first' policy that recognises the importance of putting infrastructure at the heart of place making. This approach aligns with other national plans and strategies.
I look forward to working with all our stakeholders to ensure that collectively we maximise the benefits of infrastructure investment for the people of Scotland.
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