White defends SFT over infrastructure developments

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Infrastructure funding body, the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), has admitted that it has faced “challenging times” as lack of public and private sector demand has slowed the pace of construction programmes, according to its latest business plan.

But chief executive Barry White has defended the group’s pace of development after MSPs criticised the quango earlier this year for delays in projects for new schools, healthcare facilities and roadworks.

White said: “I would be the first to admit that these are tough and challenging times for the construction industry.

“We would have liked some of the schools we are building under the NPD [non-profit distributing] programme to come forward faster than they have. But if we are going to spend huge sums of money, getting it right is a real priority for us.”

Defending the speed of developments being delivered through its variety of funding streams, White said the NPD-funded Inverness College went from procurement to financial close in 18 months. “Historically, projects like that take 35 months to financial close, we are talking about halving historic norms for these types of projects. Goodness me, we are motoring,” he said.

He said the £84 million tax incremental financing (TIF) project on Edinburgh’s Waterfront was being “re-appraised” with City of Edinburgh Council after last year’s change of ownership of the Ocean Terminal shopping centre and changes in planning on Leith Docks, but that a similar scheme for Falkirk was due to start this year.

SFT said Hub projects – focusing on schools and community health service centres – was “accelerating rapidly”. Projects worth £50m started last year were on track to grow to £400m, with most work being awarded to small businesses, it said.