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Sturgeon promises major boost for infrastructure spend

Words: Roger Milne
Bank of England

Moves to significantly increase spending on infrastructure and legislation for a Scottish National Investment Bank that will play a key role in the initiative were both highlighted as the government announced its priorities for the year ahead.

The First Minister spelt this out in a keynote speech to the Scottish Parliament which also stressed the importance of the latest planning legislation.

Sturgeon committed the administration to reach the most ambitious long-term level of infrastructure spend ever in Scotland, with an additional £7 billion – over and above existing plans – for schools, hospitals, transport, digital connectivity and clean energy by 2026.

The FM said the new bank, which will require primary legislation, would finance ambitious companies and key infrastructure projects in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It will be a cornerstone of the high-innovation, low-carbon economy we want to create here in Scotland,” she stressed.

Sturgeon confirmed a “firm intention” to move towards net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases – not simply carbon dioxide.

And she used the speech to bang the drum for affordable housing, promising to increase support for affordable homes by a more than a quarter this financial year – from £590 million to more than £750 million.

She insisted: “Over this Parliament, we will ensure that more than 50,000 affordable homes are delivered, including at least 35,000 for social rent.”

Sturgeon stressed that for investment in housing, and infrastructure to benefit communities, “we need a fair and effective planning system”.

She added: “In the coming months, we will progress the new planning bill through Parliament and ensure that people get a chance to have an early say in shaping developments in their area.”

In addition, the administration will complete the devolution of forestry, setting up two new agencies and push for more tree cover, increasing the existing annual target of planting 10,000 hectares of woodland by another 50 per cent by 2025.

Also promised will be a boost for electric car-charging points and the creation of a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.

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