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Welcome for recommendation for independent advisory body to government on infrastructure investment

Published 27 July 2020 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland’s director Colin Howden has made some initial observations regarding today’s publication of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland’s report ‘Phase 2: Delivery Findings Report — A blueprint for Scotland’:

“We welcome this new report from the Infrastructure Commission. As noted in today’s report, there certainly needs to be progress made in implementing many of the valuable recommendations made in its first report, which included a number of measures specific to the transport sector.

“We will have to take some time to digest this second report more fully. However, we are attracted by the Commission’s recommendation that there should be an independent advisory body to government on infrastructure.

“In the past, we have raised concerns about how infrastructure priorities have fluctuated wildly due to the whims of individual transport ministers. In this we would cite the decisions to rapidly prioritise the dualling of the A9 and A96 roads, and the related decisions to de-scope the Borders Railway project and the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme. None of these decisions seem to be based on sound advice, but rather reflected the short-term political interests of individual Ministers.

“We would expect an independent infrastructure body to be operate more transparently than the process that is followed by executive agencies such as Transport Scotland. We would reflect on the experience of the first Strategic Transport Projects Review, completed in 2009, which carried out the very bare minimum of external stakeholder engagement, or the Infrastructure Investment Plan, which involves no external stakeholder engagement of which we are aware.

“Plans for the independent body would have to be very clear about appointments. The report notes that equivalent organisations overseas involves academics and the private sector, but given the scale and importance of the third sector in Scotland, it would be necessary to also ensure that representation is also included from that sector.”

Transform Scotland submitted written evidence to the Commission and took part in a roundtable event during Phase 1. We also welcomed the Phase 1 report when it was published earlier this year.