The report presented to the Scottish government by the ICS says that a net-zero-carbon economy remains at heart of the strategy. It sets out three key recommendations:
- Giving an independent, specialist body the remit to provide strategic, long-term infrastructure advice to Scottish government;
- Enshrining the ‘place principle’ and implementing a 'one public sector' approach to planning and developing sustainable places;
- Establishing a construction accord to strengthen the future relationship between the public sector and the construction industry.
The ICS said that an independent, specialist body to provide strategic advice is considered pivotal to effectively delivering Scotland’s inclusive, net-zero carbon economy.
‘Delivery Findings – A blueprint for Scotland’, which is published today (27th July), builds on the ICS’s initial ‘Key Findings’ report published in January 2020. It follows a further period of extensive stakeholder engagement, both pre and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ICS recommends that by early 2021 an independent specialist body be given the responsibility by Scottish government to help prioritise the infrastructure needed to enable an inclusive, net-zero carbon economy. It should develop a 30-year infrastructure strategy that is reinforced by a long-term needs assessment.
The independent organisation would sit outside the political decision-making system to enable it to operate in an arms-length and transparent way.
Among other ICS’ recommendations is that Scottish Government should enshrine the use by all stakeholders of the ‘Place Principle’- aimed at bringing together people, location and resources to create a sense of identity and purpose - which it says has already been proven to be an effective model when designing places within planning practice. This would support the creation of sustainable places and help enable a ‘one public sector approach’ to infrastructure.
The ICS said that it recognises the importance of a thriving construction sector being vital for the successful delivery of Scotland’s long-term infrastructure requirements. Work is already under way to drive positive outcomes to increase productivity, raise capability and improve the reputation of the construction sector. However, the ICS notes that there is a window of opportunity for both the public and construction sectors to strengthen their future working relationship and practice, in light of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had across the economy,
As part of this, it recommends that by early 2021, Scottish government and the Construction Scotland Leadership Group should create a construction accord. It would include measures to improve the capacity, capability and diversity of the workforce at all levels with a heavy focus on skills development, training requirements and career prospects for those working in the sector.
Ian Russell, chair of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland, said: “Infrastructure has a vital role to play in the delivery of an inclusive, net zero carbon economy and Covid-19 has amplified the need for urgent action and change for economic, social and natural infrastructure.
“The Commission is recommending that an independent, specialist body be given responsibility for providing Government with strategic, long-term infrastructure advice and enshrining the place principle within planning practice. Collaboration between the public sector and the construction industry is crucial and therefore establishing a construction accord between the public sector and the construction industry is another vital recommendation in the Commission’s report.”
Other recommendations in the report include harnessing a heightened focus on digital technology. The ICS advises that a digital data coordination, standards and facilitation role is established by the end of 2021 to support the efficient and innovative development and use of data for the infrastructure sector.
Cabinet secretary for infrastructure, Michael Matheson, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented global crisis which has fundamentally changed every aspect of our lives. Infrastructure will play a critical role in the years ahead as we plan our strategic economic recovery from the pandemic.
“I am grateful to the Infrastructure Commission for their hard work – no doubt made more challenging in recent months – to produce this comprehensive second report on the delivery of infrastructure. We shall now take time to consider its findings very carefully.
“The Commission’s Phase 1 report has already helped to shape our next 5-year Infrastructure Investment Plan, details of which I look forward to announcing in September. This Plan will incorporate a response to the Commission’s Phase 1 findings.”
Russell said: “We are clear that the implementation of all of the recommendations made in our Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports - some of which we acknowledge will necessitate a fundamentally different way of prioritising, planning and delivering infrastructure investment - will make a significant contribution to the successful creation of an inclusive net zero carbon economy.
“The recommendations from the Commission’s work over the past 18 months are designed to galvanise and accelerate action by all involved with infrastructure in Scotland.”