Infrastructure development is springboard to flourishing economy - Hannah Smith

The inboxes of new Scottish Government ministers – and indeed those of their shadows – are no doubt brimming with suggestions as to what should take priority as part of the post-Covid recovery and economic revitalisation.

Hannah Smith, Director, Ice Scotland

The challenge is complex, with no single panacea, but ICE Scotland will continue to make the case for investment in our infrastructure to be at the heart of immediate plans; infrastructure investment offers an unsurpassed springboard from which to develop a flourishing economy and society.

From the water we drink and the power we use, to the roads and railways we travel on and the buildings we occupy – infrastructure underpins every aspect of our lives.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Good infrastructure can improve our places, productivity, health and wellbeing – while poor or inefficient infrastructure leads to economic and societal disruption, creating a productivity drag and burdening communities.

That’s the message we have been communicating, both to members of the last Scottish Parliament and now to those in the new, with a focus on four areas of action.

The first is for a strategic ‘resiliency audit’ to ensure our infrastructure is as durable as possible. Large portions of Scotland’s infrastructure lack resiliency, particularly in the face of increasing climate-driven extreme weather events. We must shore-up and future proof these assets.

This audit must be carried out by galvinising experts from across the public, private and academic sectors to map out areas of pressing challenge and the identify interventions (actions across government and industry) which can deliver most benefit to our economy and communities.

Many of these experts will be amongst ICE Scotland’s 8,500 members - highly skilled professionals who meet exacting standards. Their expertise in planning, designing, building, maintaining and managing our infrastructure needs to be brought into infrastructure decision making – from conception to delivery.

Overhauling procurement practices is our third priority for action. It is widely recognised that public procurement is not working effectively. Smaller contractors are often disadvantaged, local supply chains under-utilised and current transactional contract models are not sustainable.

We know there is work going to address this, but we need to accelerate moves towards a more vibrant partnership-based procurement ecosystem.

Finally, whilst by definition priorities tend to be for the short-term, when it comes to infrastructure planning and investment there must be a long-term obligation. The Scottish Government must recognise it is the steward of assets with often multi-generational lifespans, and act accordingly, developing a shared infrastructure vision underpinned by cross-party commitment.

Civil Engineers have always worked to benefit society. With decisive action, collaborative working and a focus on these priority areas, Scotland can deliver economic recovery and social value through infrastructure.

Hannah Smith, ICE Scotland Director


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.