Report urges creation of ‘Construction Accord’ to strengthen links between industry and public sector

A report by the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland (ICS) has recommended that an independent specialist body should be given a remit to provide strategic long-term infrastructure advice to help deliver an inclusive, net-zero carbon economy in Scotland.

The report, presented to the Scottish Government, also proposes enshrining the ‘Place Principle’ and implementing a one public sector approach to planning and developing sustainable places.

A further recommendation is the establishment of a ‘Construction Accord’ to strengthen the future relationship between the public sector and the construction industry.

The report, entitled ‘Delivery Findings – A blueprint for Scotland’ builds on the ICS’s initial ‘Key Findings’ report, which was published in January and follows a further period of stakeholder engagement, both pre and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ICS recommends that by early 2021 an independent specialist body be given the responsibility by Scottish Government to ‘help prioritise the infrastructure needed to enable an inclusive, net-zero carbon economy and to develop a 30-year infrastructure strategy reinforced by a long-term needs assessment’.

The organisation would sit outside the political decision-making system to enable it to operate in an ‘arms-length and transparent way’. The body would be able to challenge government.

The Scottish Government has also been urged to enshrine the use by all stakeholders of the Place Principle. The report suggests this would support the creation of sustainable places and help enable a ‘one public sector approach’ to infrastructure which is central to achieving the commission’s vision for a net zero carbon and inclusive growth economy.

The ICS is also recommending that by early 2021, the Scottish Government and the Construction Scotland Leadership Group should create a Construction Accord. This would set a commitment to improve conditions that support a high performing construction sector and would include measures to improve capacity, capability and diversity of the workforce at all levels with a heavy focus on skills development, training requirements and career prospects.

Ian Russell, chair of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland said, “Infrastructure has a vital role to play in the delivery of an inclusive, net zero carbon economy and Covid-19 has amplified the need for urgent action and change for economic, social and natural infrastructure. The commission is recommending that an independent, specialist body be given responsibility for providing government with strategic, long-term infrastructure advice and enshrining the place principle within planning practice. Collaboration between the public sector and the construction industry is crucial and therefore establishing a construction accord between the public sector and the construction industry is another vital recommendation in the Commission’s report.”

Other recommendations include harnessing a heightened focus on digital technology.

Cabinet Secretary for infrastructure, Michael Matheson, added, “The Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented global crisis which has fundamentally changed every aspect of our lives. Infrastructure will play a critical role in the years ahead as we plan our strategic economic recovery from the pandemic. I am grateful to the Infrastructure Commission for their hard work – no doubt made more challenging in recent months – to produce this comprehensive second report on the delivery of infrastructure. We shall now take time to consider its findings very carefully.

“The Commission’s Phase 1 report has already helped to shape our next 5-year Infrastructure Investment Plan, details of which I look forward to announcing in September. This Plan will incorporate a response to the Commission’s Phase 1 findings.”