A billion-pound drive to help Scotland build its way to economic recovery has been announced by finance secretary John Swinney.
The money will be pumped into major construction projects in the pipeline across Scotland and could include the new Royal Sick Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh, the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, NHS Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary’s redevelopment, as well as new college buildings in Glasgow, Inverness and Kilmarnock.
The schemes to get funding will be revealed later in the year.
Mr Swinney said: “This investment will build on the successes of the current programme, delivering colleges, schools, roads, hospitals and community health facilities across Scotland.
“It will also provide the construction sector with the long-term certainty of a future pipeline of work.
“Every additional £100 million of construction activity is estimated to support over 1,300 jobs. And then we get the long-term benefits of using the asset.”
The cash will come through the Non-Profit Distributing (NPD) method of funding which means the government effectively borrows from financial markets and banks and pays the sum back over about 30 years.
Mr Swinney also said he plans to spend extra cash which has been available to Scotland after the UK Budget last month. An additional £31.2m will be invested over the next two years to help provide the infrastructure needed for an expansion of childcare. This will go to local councils, along with an extra £12m towards the provision of free school meals for pupils in primaries one to three.
A further £10.3m is going to the Scottish Government’s Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme in 2014-15, while another £12m is to be invested in helping young people into work. In addition, £1m will be spent both this financial year and next to mitigate the impact of UK government welfare reforms, Mr Swinney told MSPs.
“We cannot undo all of the damage of welfare reform, the austerity agenda or the consequences of Westminster’s economic mismanagement,” he said. “The actions of this government demonstrate, however, our determination to take the initiative where we can.”
But the announcement of additional cash for childcare and free school meals sparked claims from the opposition that the Scottish Government had failed to fully fund these.
Mr Swinney’s budget for 2014-15 included funding for more free childcare places and free school meals. Labour finance spokesman Iain Gray said the finance secretary had been “adamant then that he had fully funded those commitments”.
But, he said, the allocation of additional money was “a straightforward admission that the commitments made in January were never fully funded”.
Tories and Liberal Democrats also pressed Mr Swinney on the cash for childcare. Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said the finance secretary had “stated that we still don’t understand the capital cost implications of childcare expansion”.
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “I want to bring childcare provision in line with that of England’s where 40 per cent of two-year-olds, beginning with those from poorer backgrounds, benefit from free childcare.”