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Last edited 26 Jan 2021
Scottish Government Budget 2018-19
In December 2017, one month on from the UK Autumn Statement, the Scottish Government published its 2018/19 budget, promising infrastructure, innovation and productivity. It sets out how the Scottish Government will invest its block grant and use its newly devolved taxation powers.
While the media has understandably focused on the new income tax bands and the exercising of Scotland’s new devolved fiscal powers, the real story is Scotland’s low growth in comparison with the rest of the UK. So it’s worth taking a look at how the infrastructure promises played out.
 Infrastructure and investment
For those looking for big announcements it was perhaps another disappointing policy set-piece. The £4bn of infrastructure funding in the 2018/19 budget is tied up in pre-existing projects like the A9 duelling and rail electrification programme.
But the budget wasn’t without some festive cheer for those scanning the horizon. The confirmation of capitalisation for a Scottish National Investment Bank (£340m over 2019-21), and an interim Building Scotland fund (£150m over 2 years), while the SNIB is developed add detail to the Programme for Government commitment.
In its budget submission, ICE Scotland called for this to be complemented by a Scottish Infrastructure Needs Assessment, looking to 2050. This would help to provide a framework for investment decisions, taking a cross-sector and evidence-based approach.
Other welcome announcements included a doubling of City Deal funding, £60m investment in low carbon energy infrastructure innovation and a commitment to 100% super-fast broadband access to all homes and businesses by 2021.
The Scottish Government’s settlement of just over £10bn for local authorities, covering everything from education to road maintenance, in theory includes a £94m uplift and clearance to raise council tax by up to 3%. However, these figures are contested by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) who suggest that the budget in fact represents a £153m cut.
If an inclusive growth agenda is to be realised then that must include ensuring the maintenance of our vital local infrastructure assets. Local authorities will continue to be faced with tough choices about how to allocate their budget.
 Infrastructure, innovation and productivity?
Whether it delivers the step-change in productivity required remains to be seen. Anticipated announcements on energy and transport strategies and the progress of the Planning (Scotland) Bill may illuminate how infrastructure will pay its part in driving forward productivity in Scotland.
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