Chapter 1: The Infrastructure Commission For Scotland
In 2018, the First Minister announced a National Infrastructure Mission, steadily to increase Scotland's annual infrastructure investment so that it reaches internationally competitive levels by the end of the next Parliament. This will see £1.5 billion higher investment in 2025-26 than in 2019-20, an increase representing a full 1% of GDP at the time the Mission started.
To support delivery of the National Infrastructure Mission, Scottish Ministers established an independent Infrastructure Commission for Scotland. Further background information on the Infrastructure Commission is published in Annex A.
The Infrastructure Commission for Scotland reported its findings in two phases:
- Phase 1: recommendations on the vision, ambition and strategic priorities for infrastructure were published in 'A Blueprint for Scotland' in January 2020.
- Phase 2 involved providing further advice on the delivery of infrastructure. This advice was published in July 2020.
The Infrastructure Commission's Phase 1 report proposed the following vision:
30-year Infrastructure Vision: To support and enable an inclusive net zero carbon economy
In formulating its first report, the Infrastructure Commission engaged widely across Scotland, attracting almost 150 submissions and feedback from over 1,000 members of the public. It sought views from users and future users of infrastructure, including engagement with young people, providing a rich source of information.
The Commission's Phase 1 Key Findings report called on the Scottish Government to tackle the dual challenges of a climate emergency and creating an inclusive growth economy. It identified 8 thematic areas with 23 recommendations aimed at the Scottish public sector, as well as infrastructure regulators, operators and users.
Scottish Ministers agree with the majority of the recommendations in the Phase 1 Report.
Where applicable, action in response to Phase 1 has already been taken and is reflected in this Infrastructure Investment Plan.
- Expanded our infrastructure definition to include Natural Infrastructure.
- Introduced a new investment hierarchy framework to prioritise making the most of existing infrastructure ahead of building new assets.
- Committed to developing new methods of appraisal and prioritisation to ensure they match long-term goals.
- Committed to preparing a cross-sector infrastructure needs assessment to inform the next Infrastructure Investment Plan.
- Committed to developing a broader approach to public engagement in forward infrastructure plans.
The Government's detailed response to the Phase 1 recommendations is also set out in Annex A. This shows our acceptance of 22 out of 23 recommendations for the time-being; the one outstanding recommendation is considered further in our response to the Phase 2 Report below. Some forward dates and implementation details may look a little different from Infrastructure Commission's original aspirations, not least out of necessity given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our work.
The Commission's Phase 2 report contained 11 recommendations which can be grouped into three themes, relating to:
- prioritising an inclusive net zero carbon economy and a long-term approach to infrastructure strategy (Recommendations 1 and 2);
- how best to optimise the impact of infrastructure in enabling sustainable places (Recommendations 3-9); and
- delivering a thriving construction sector through enhancing the interaction between the public sector and industry (Recommendations 10 and 11).
The Scottish Government has considered the Phase 2 recommendations and is supportive of the broad themes. Some areas require further consideration, as identified below.
The Scottish Government agrees with the recommendations for delivering a thriving construction sector (Recommendations 10 & 11) and has already committed to taking forward a Construction Accord with the industry by spring 2021 with an external advisory group established to develop the Accord.
Where the Commission has recommended enhancement to the approach to decision-making (Recommendation 2), this was primarily to ensure their Phase 1 Report could effectively be implemented. The Scottish Government has already committed to a number of enhancements in this Plan in response to Phase 1 recommendations and will implement these to deliver an integrated, outcome-led approach in time for the next Infrastructure Investment Plan. We will report on the progress towards implementing these changes at regular intervals.
The Scottish Government agrees broadly with the recommendations 3-9 on the Sustainable Places theme. The thrust of the recommendations are in line with the development of the National Planning Framework 4, particularly in ensuring a cross-portfolio evidence-based approach to spatial planning which aligns national, regional and local needs. However, there are some areas of detail that will require further consideration to identify how best to deliver the detail of the Commission's recommended approach in practice, taking into account existing arrangements and ongoing policy development.
The Scottish Government will continue to work with partners, including the Scottish Futures Trust, local government and other public bodies, to encourage the efficient and innovative use of data for the infrastructure sector. Through the Scottish Government's Digital Planning Strategy we intend to improve the standardisation of data collection and use in infrastructure planning but it is important to be aware that there are challenges to overcome in having one common dataset as described by the Commission.
We recognise the importance of skills in place-making. Many of these skills exist within the built environment, community development and green network professions. Tools and resources such as the Place Standard can provide common platforms to support exchanges gain common understanding of challenges and opportunities.
The Commission's first recommendation on infrastructure strategy is a further development of its Phase 1 Report recommendation 23 and identifies new duties being given to an independent specialist body, which could be an existing body, operating at arms-length to government. The Phase 2 report provides a review of international examples where an independent body is in place but the Scottish Government feels further consideration on the most appropriate approach and application to the Scottish context is required. We will set out further details of the steps we will take to explore this later.
For the time-being, the Scottish Government accepts the conclusion of the Infrastructure Commission in relation to the potential for a Scottish National Infrastructure Company. However, as recommended by the Commission, we will keep this issue under review and will continue to monitor the impact of the Construction Accord and other relevant Commission recommendations as they are implemented.