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Scotland’s New £60 billion Infrastructure Wish List

December 8, 2015

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Alex Neil, the cabinet minister for infrastructure and capital investment, released the SNP plan on Tuesday outlining the proposed infrastructure investments up to 2030.

The plan includes 54 large infrastructure projects and 33 programmes investing in transportation, energy, hospitals, schools, and housing.  The list of projects includes previously promised improvements to Scotland’s road and rail network including construction of a new Forth Road Bridge, widening the A9 to a full dual carriageway, and track upgrades to decrease journey times between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The plan also includes £45m for the new V&A Museum in Dundee and allowances for high speed rail links to the northwest of England – which seems far off given minimal support in Westminster and the current stagnation of the Birmingham extension.

Commonwealth Games construction photo by Richard Webb via geograph.org.uk

The SNP has also pledged to produce 100% of Scotland’s electricity from renewables, cut overall energy consumption, recycle 70% of waste, and invest in faster broadband for rural areas.

Considering the long lead times for all of these projects, this might not be as unaffordable as it initially appears. Devolution is giving the Scottish government additional borrowing powers through the Scotland Bill, and Holyrood may yet be given even more power to raise money locally for such projects in the future. However, the Labour Party opposition described the plan as merely a long term wishlist.

Even though many of these projects are long overdue, the stats seem far too optimistic given the current economic climate and the uncertainty around constitutional issues.

Mr Neil said that each £100m of capital investment would generate £160m in economic activity and support 1400 jobs. I’m naturally skeptical of these figures because these estimates are based on a formula which approximates the return on infrastructure investment. In reality, it is difficult to accurately quantify the total economic value created from such projects. Plus, there is always a certain amount of decline and renewal going on, so not every new infrastructure investment is creating new opportunities or new services.

Past commitments regarding the new Forth crossing, the A9 widening, and rail upgrades have all been made but construction work has not started on any of those projects.

You can read the full plan here and decide for yourself how realistic the proposals are.

Do you think this will be money well spent? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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