Scotland State of the Nation raises serious questions over infrastructure resilience

ICE Scotland’s comprehensive review of infrastructure has highlighted critical energy issues and a £2bn road maintenance backlog

With an excess supply of just 1.2% in 2015/2016 from 4.1% today Scotland is facing major issues in its energy sector said the ICE Scotland State of the Nation report. At the same time a third of Scotland’s roads are considered to be in an “unacceptable” condition with the maintenance backlog standing at £2bn. “Our grades show that most areas of Scotland’s infrastructure require attention,” said Ronnie Hunter, Chair of the State of the Nation Scotland Steering Group of ICE Scotland. “Although there is some good news, such as in the areas of waste and strategic transport, there are serious question marks over the resilience of our energy and local transport infrastructure.”

The report gives the energy sector a grade of C-, dropping down from a C in the previous report of 2011. It points out that 55% of existing generating capacity will be retired in the next 20 years putting further pressure on the dwindling reserve margin. Highlighting the issue last week ahead of the report release Hunter said "Energy is the part of Scotland’s infrastructure network which concerns us most, and we encourage the Scottish Government, working with the UK Government, to provide a clearly articulated vision for the future. Decisions must be made on evidence and resilience, not on emotion and politics."

“Although there is some good news, there are serious question marks over the resilience of our energy and local transport infrastructure.”

Ronnie Hunter, Chair of the State of the Nation Scotland Steering Group,

ICE Scotland.

State of the Nation recognises that much of energy politcy is reserved to Westminster but urged the Scottish Government to articulate a clear vision of how it wishes the generating capacity gap to be filled and says that changes are needed to how Scotland generates and uses energy. It calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the debate on the pros and cons of wind, nuclear and onshore gas and their place in Scotland’s future energy mix is informed by independent, scientific, expert advice.

In the transport sector the report calls on government to fully address the £2bn road maintenance backlog and suggests that road user charging be considered to help meet the financial demands of constructing and maintaining good quality road infrastructure. Although it commends improvements in national strategic infrastructure and says that road and rail connections between major cities have improved since 2011 giving this sector a grade of B, local transport has deteriorated scoring only a D. It finds that overlapping layers of local transport decision making across catchments results in poorly integrated services and poor lines of accountability.

"A city region approach can help frame transport planning in a way which integrates effectively with other planning areas, such as housing. The Strategic Development Plan (SDP) process should be reviewed to integrate with transport and infrastructure planning," states the report. "A review of current transport planning arrangements, and establishment of integrated and democratically accountable regional transport and planning authorities with increased power would be beneficial."

In the rail sector it says that better connectivity between the central belt and northern cities is needed if rail is to compete with road and aviation. Projects such as the Borders Railway and the Edinburgh to Glasgow improvement project are increasing network capacity and sustainability. Exploration of the route options for high speed rail link to London were welcomed by the ICE which said it expected further announcements in February 2016.

“A country cannot fully serve its people without good infrastructure. Whilst giving credit to the Scottish Government in the areas where it is deserved," said Hunter "It is our job to highlight those to which Ministers must turn their attention with urgency if we are to have resilience and sustainability.”

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