By Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning
Scotland has long been famed for its engineering and construction. From the Lighthouse Stevensons to James Craig, who planned the New Town of Edinburgh, right up to the Falkirk Wheel, the only fully rotating boat lift in the world, which was completed at the start of the 21st century.
In fact, the last couple of years alone have seen the completion of two internationally renowned projects – the Queensferry Crossing bridge over the River Forth, and the magnificent Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee, designed by Kengo Kuma.
The Scottish Government’s investment in these projects forms part of a wider programme to transform Scotland’s infrastructure. We recognise that having a modern, efficient infrastructure is vital to attracting investment into this country.
Our investments have already helped Scotland to become the UK’s most attractive location for Foreign Direct Investment outside of London. They have also brought major benefits to the construction industry. In the years ahead, we are determined to build on that success and open up new opportunities for growth and development.
To support delivery of our National Infrastructure Mission, we have established an Infrastructure Commission and we will publish our next Infrastructure Investment Plan by June 2020 which will cover the next Parliamentary term.
As part this plan, we are continuing to support the mixed use development of Edinburgh’s St James Quarter – and we are providing further investment for the £1 billion Dundee Waterfront Development.
In addition, through our Building Scotland Fund we are providing £150 million to support the development of housing across all tenures, modern industrial and commercial property, and business-led R&D projects.
In housing we are committed to delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes over the course of this Parliament, with 35,000 of these for social rent, and we’re investing more than £3.3 billion in our affordable housing programme.
We’re also investing £110 million in the Help to Buy scheme over two years to March 2021, to help over 4000 more households into home ownership.
It’s vital that we work with the construction industry in a way which helps it thrive, and delivers value for money, better quality and more sustainable projects for the people of Scotland.
That is why our Economic Action Plan highlights our commitment to step up our engagement with the construction sector to develop a shared action plan that supports the ambitions of the Construction Scotland Industry Strategy (2019-22) and delivers on our economic infrastructure and built environment aims.
We have established a new strategic Leadership Forum between the Scottish Government and Construction Scotland, and we look forward to working collaboratively to form a refreshed and stronger relationship.
In housing, we have begun work on a vision for how our homes and communities should look and feel in 2040, and to consider the options and choices to get there. We are preparing for further engagement on a draft vision, some specific themes and outline options later in 2019. This will provide another opportunity for stakeholders to share their views with Scottish Government.
We want the construction sector to be more sustainable, productive and innovative and we want to help all companies involved to enhance the sector’s contribution to the economy.
That is one of the reasons we are providing £11 million of support for Phase two of the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, helping academia and the industry work together to take advantage of new technologies.
The Scottish Government is also investing heavily in providing the construction workforce of the future.
In 2017/18 we supported 6,104 people into construction Modern Apprenticeships.
We are also significantly expanding the provision of the Civil Engineering Foundation Apprenticeship, which combine the benefits of school, college and work-based education for senior phase pupils and focus on STEM.
And in 2016 the Scottish Government created Graduate Apprenticeships in construction, to provide a way into degree level qualifications for people while they work.
We are keen to reduce inequality and this is being addressed through our detailed five year Equality Action Plan for Apprenticeships.
The actions are aimed at improving the participation of disabled and ethnic minority groups and care experienced individuals in Modern Apprenticeships, as well as addressing gender imbalance.
The construction sector faces many challenges, but we will continue to support the sector to seize the enormous opportunities ahead and position Scotland at the forefront of innovative practices and transformational change.