This report recognises that the demands on infrastructure services are shifting and increasing, with pressures from population growth, disruptive technologies, increasing urbanisation, and resilience issues due to climate change.
It further seeks to clarify how infrastructure is currently paid for, and set out priorities for infrastructure planning and prioritisation for the future.
Policies for infrastructure prioritisation
State of the Nation Scotland 2018 makes seven recommendations for Scottish and UK governments to consider. The full list, along with a link to the report, is below.
Infrastructure is by its nature a long-term investment, providing the services we rely on for decades – if not centuries. Infrastructure investment and planning must move beyond short-term political cycles, and be founded on a shared vision underpinned by cross-party commitment.
Consistency of approach and long-term certainty of funding, not just for new assets but also for the maintenance and renewal of existing assets, must be a priority if maximum benefit from investment is to be delivered.
The report calls on the newly formed Scottish Infrastructure Commission to be independently chaired, transparent, and to be evidence-led in its recommendations to the Scottish government.
Through the creation of true cross-party support and consensus on the future of infrastructure investment, we can deliver a consistent approach to infrastructure planning, prioritisation and investment.
How to better fund Scotland's roads
Four of the report’s recommendations focus on sector-specific ideas to ensure maximum value is realised from major capital investments, and support future investment decisions. One of those looks specifically at how we can better fund Scotland, and the UK’s, roads.
Scotland has 52,400km of local roads, over a third of which are in need of essential maintenance, costing at least £1.3bn to repair.
Alongside the move to a zero-carbon vehicle fleet, which will reduce the viability of fuel duty, it's more important than ever that we talk about how the next generation of road transport levies will be raised.
ICE and ICE Scotland recommends UK government consider a ‘pay as you go’ road charging scheme to replace Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty.
Importantly, this recommendation has the support of over half of Scottish adults (52%), with less than a quarter (23%) opposing it. Some 25% are either undecided or don't have an opinion either way.
The revenue raised through the charges could be used to improve and maintain local roads.
Continuing the conversation
No vision for infrastructure is deliverable without a strong and resilient construction and engineering sector to design, build and maintain vital social and economic assets.
Scottish industry has a wealth of skills and innovation at its disposal, but its true value can only be realised where there's a visible pipeline of work to create confidence. It also depends upon a mature relationship between the public sector and industry, where risk share is fair and balanced.
It's important that industry contributes to the discussion, provide evidence to inform decision making and help deliver the core assets which will help to build a prosperous and productive future for Scotland.
Sector-specific interventions to enhance infrastructure investment
- Roads: The Scottish Government and local authorities should commit to multi-year funding for roads. The Scottish Government should consider how replacements for VED and fuel duty could be used to fund road asset maintenance and should consider the potential benefits from regulation of Scotland’s roads.
- Energy: The Scottish Government should accelerate its efforts to decarbonise heat as a matter of priority. Scottish and UK governments should continue to work together to focus on achieving maximum value and resilience from existing energy infrastructure. Both governments should explore the legislative mechanisms available to enable new technologies, like storage, to access the market.
- Water: Expenditure should increase on water and waste water asset maintenance which is critical for maintaining service, reducing the risk of loss of this vital service to customers. Industry should seek to advance its use of data and analytics to support maximum efficiency in delivery, operation and maintenance.
- Rail: Increased efforts should be made to identify opportunities for improved efficiency in delivery and maintenance, building on lessons learned during control period 5.
- The Scottish Infrastructure Commission should be independent and build cross-party consensus to support a consistent, long-term approach to infrastructure planning and investment. The Commission should undertake an assessment of Scotland’s long-term infrastructure needs to inform its future work.
- Long-term asset planning and maintenance should be declared as a National Infrastructure Priority. Asset maintenance is a fundamental part of a resilient and productive Scottish infrastructure system.
- The Scottish Government, infrastructure clients and industry should work together to address the problems associated with transactional industry contract models and ensure that risks in delivering public infrastructure projects are allocated fairly and appropriately.