Watchdog calls for review of Scottish capital projects

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Image caption The watchdog estimated that about 182 capital projects were planned or under way

The Scottish government has been urged to review its infrastructure investment plan to reflect the recession.

Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland said the 10-year plan, published in 2008, needed to be updated.

The finding was made in a report on major capital projects, outlining a projected drop in investment from £3.3bn a year to £2.1bn by 2014-15.

The Scottish government said the report showed its management of capital investment had improved.

Auditors said there was no comprehensive list of major capital projects in progress but estimated about 182 were planned or under way.

The report added: "Although the plan is not quite three years old, the recent economic recession and subsequent reduction of public sector spending, particularly capital budgets, mean that it needs to be reviewed and updated."

Robert Black, the auditor general for Scotland, said capital projects made a difference to how people lived their lives.

He added: "With Scotland's capital budget dropping by a third in coming years, there are difficult choices ahead about where and how to invest public money.

"The Scottish government has improved its leadership and oversight of the capital investment programme in recent years.

"It now needs to set out a clear view for investment in future years, backed with good information about long-term needs, affordability and constraints.

"This would strengthen debate about spending decisions, priorities and planning."

Labour finance spokesman Andy Kerr MSP said: "It simply doesn't make sense to turn off the tap of public investment during a recession, but this is what the SNP have done with their opposition to private finance.

"We now need to look at what else can be done to get Scotland building again and one solution would be to bring forward the borrowing powers proposed in the Scotland Bill."

'Mitigate cuts'

Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis MSP said: "The government needs to be much more focused on making it clear what their strategy is on capital projects and how they are going to finance them.

"It has to be recognised that the pipeline of projects had already slowed when the budget was going up and now there is scant sign of a strategy."

Conservative finance spokesman Derek Brownlee said: "We criticised the last Lab-LibDem Executive for failing to say which capital projects were prioritised and which were not.

"We need the SNP government to publish a full breakdown of what it plans to spend, on which projects, in which years. If it doesn't, people will wonder what will be cut."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We are deploying £2.5bn of new investment through the Non Profit Distributing model to mitigate the cuts in Scotland's capital budgets from the UK government.

"This programme is being led by the Scottish Futures Trust, which is working to secure maximum value for money from our infrastructure investment across Scotland."

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