Scottish infrastructure body at risk

Scotland's quasi-independent infrastructure body would be abolished if the Scottish Labour Party takes power following the Scottish parliamentary elections next month.

Scottish Parliament: 5 May elections could decide the Scottish Futures Trust's fate
Scottish Parliament: 5 May elections could decide the Scottish Futures Trust's fate

In a growth manifesto published at the end of March ahead of the 5 May election, the party says: "The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) has not delivered the agenda set out for it by the Scottish National Party (SNP) Government and for this reason we will bring the SFT to an end."

The trust has been leading the introduction of the US-style Tax Increment Financing funding tool in Scotland (see box), which Scottish Labour supports.

The organisation was set up in 2008 following a pledge in the SNP's 2007 election manifesto. Critics of the party - including many in the construction industry - claimed that the trust took too long to establish and failed to make significant progress for at least a year.

A spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party said: "We've taken the view that the SFT just does what was previously done by the civil service. We think those things can be done less expensively within government."

He added that it was "very likely" that a Labour government would move key trust responsibilities back into the civil service in Edinburgh.

But an SNP spokesman said: "This would be an act of economic vandalism that would place a £9 billion portfolio of projects at risk of delay - or even cancellation - including hospitals, schools and major roads projects."

He added: "The trust is managing a bigger portfolio of infrastructure projects than ever before and is delivering significant cost benefits in the face of swingeing capital budget cuts imposed on us by Westminster."

The latest poll, produced by TNS-BMRB for STV, put Labour on 38 per cent, the SNP on 37, the Tories on 15 and the Liberal Democrats on seven.

The growth manifesto can be viewed via PlanningResource.co.uk/go/referencesection.

The Scottish futures Trust's main programmes

The National Housing Trust initiative This involves the public sector borrowing on behalf of developers to pay 65 to 70 per cent of the cost of building homes. In return, the home will be available for affordable rent for five to ten years. The developer then has the option to sell, as long as the loan is repaid. The Scottish Futures Trust plans to build 1,000 homes over two years in this way.

Tax Increment Financing TIF involves borrowing against expected future tax take from a development to fund the infrastructure that will allow that development to proceed. The trust is working on six TIF schemes.

The HUB initiative This involves creating five public-private partnerships to deliver community infrastructure.


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