The Scottish Government is set to commit up to £60 billion to the financing of at least 80 infrastructure building projects as part of a 15-year plan to avoid Scotland falling back into recession.
The announcement follows ominous predictions that the UK economy is descending into possibly the worst economic malaise since the end of the 19th century.
Infrastructure minister Alex Neil said that the 80 major projects to be unveiled would boost growth back into the ‘flat lining’ economy whilst leaving a legacy for future generations of Scots.
Mr Neil said: “It will also provide crucial support for employment, with every additional £100 million of capital we invest per year estimated to generate £160m worth of economic activity and support 1,400 jobs in the wider economy for that year.
“All of these projects will signal a clear intent and provide the kind of solid foundations and certainty our construction industry demands.”
The Scottish government says Scotland has a head start on the rest of the UK outside of London, with funded projects now “shovel-ready”, including: the new Forth Road Bridge; completion of the dual-carriageway on the A9 between Perth and Inverness; improvements to the Edinburgh-Glasgow rail link and more school-building work.
Other projects in the pipeline include: a new Sick Children’s hospital in Edinburgh; building work for the new Glasgow colleges; building work at schools including James Gillespie’s in Edinburgh and a new high school in Wick in Caithness.
Further infrastructure work is likely to include work to install a new superfast broadband network to much of Scotland.
Much of the work will be managed by the independent Scottish Futures Trust – the required funding of up to £4bn a year will come from public funds, new loans and investment from banks and private lenders.
The proposed Scotland Bill, currently going through the UK parliament, would allow Scottish ministers to borrow up to £2bn from the UK Treasury’s coffers. The Scottish government have asked that the limit be increased so they can borrow up to £5.6bn.
In the meantime, ministers plan to raise capital for the projects programme through “innovative” financing but insist they will not get embroiled in the notorious PFI deals in Scotland which end up far more costly to the tax-payer in the long run.
The SNP’s infrastructure push is also now being pursued by Chancellor George Osborne, who last week announced he too would be pushing more funds into infrastructure south of the Border – a year and a half since Scotland’s First Minster strongly advised Mr Osborne to begin such public investment.
Many observers are saying Mr Osborne’s current investment portfolio is “too little too late”.