‘It is not a matter of choosing change or no change; it is a matter of what, how and when future change will happen and the choices we make to get there.’ The Infrastructure Commission for Scotland (ICS)
A major report from the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland sets out some of the most ambitious and transformational recommendations yet to be seen in the UK public sector for achieving ‘an inclusive net-zero carbon economy’.
The ICS called for a presumption away from building new infrastructure, the release of new investment guidance to place greater value on achieving net-zero carbon emissions, and road user charging.
The ICS Phase 1 ‘blueprint for Scotland’ report states: ‘By the end of 2020, the Scottish Government should require all public sector infrastructure asset owners to develop asset management strategies containing a presumption in favour of enhancing, re-purposing, or maintaining existing infrastructure over developing options for new infrastructure.
‘New infrastructure should only be considered where the relevant authority has demonstrated this is the most appropriate response.’
It adds that the Scottish Government should by next year ‘develop and publish a new infrastructure assessment framework and methodology that will enable system-wide infrastructure investment decisions to be prioritised based on their contribution to inclusive net-zero carbon economy outcomes’.
The Scottish Government should also ensure the new National Transport Strategy and Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 – due to be published this year - fully reflect ‘the need to deliver an inclusive net-zero carbon economy'.
This includes aligning investment decisions 'with the requirement for demand management, a substantial increase in the proportion of journeys made by active travel, and opportunities for shared mobility as well as a much greater role for public transport’.
Introducing road charging also appears to be high up on the ICS agenda.
‘To enable a managed transition to an inclusive net-zero carbon economy road infrastructure, the Scottish and UK Governments should immediately commit to work together to establish a charging/payment regime alternative to the existing fuel and road taxation based structure,’ it states.
Ian Russell, chair of the ICS, said: ‘While infrastructure investment remains a vital factor in supporting the economy and acting as an enabler to deliver effective public services, future infrastructure decisions should be based on their ability to clearly demonstrate their contribution to an inclusive, net-zero carbon economy.’
Cabinet Secretary for infrastructure Michael Matheson said: ‘This advice will help shape how we plan to invest in Scotland’s infrastructure, recognising the long-term objectives of this Government to deliver an inclusive and net-zero emissions economy.
‘We will now take the time necessary to carefully consider the report before updating Parliament on how we plan to incorporate the recommendations into Scottish Government policy and the next Infrastructure Investment Plan.’
The report sets out eight overarching themes and 23 specific recommendations for the Scottish Government to consider. The themes are:
Future infrastructure decisions to be based on the delivery of an inclusive net-zero carbon economy
- Increased emphasis on “place-based” infrastructure
- Maximise, broaden the use of and better maintain existing assets
- Accelerate the decarbonisation of heat and transport
- Develop appropriately devolved regulatory and pricing frameworks
- Escalate and expand access to digital and technology services
- Improve and extend public engagement to shape decision making
- Explore options for long-term and independent infrastructure advice
A final report from the ICS on its future blueprint work is expected later this year.