Scotland Policy Conferences

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are.
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The future for infrastructure in Scotland - policy, investment, and contributing to economic recovery, societal priorities, and the path to net-zero

Morning, Tuesday, 5th October 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine next steps for infrastructure development in Scotland - and the measures that can be taken to drive economic recovery across the country, as well as tackle challenges around the environment, inequality, and developments in people’s working lives, priorities and habits.

It will be an opportunity to discuss significant policy developments, and issues for their implementation going forward, including:

  • the Infrastructure Investment Plan - published by The Scottish Government in February this year, with a focus on the role of infrastructure in:
    • the response to the pandemic and changes resulting from leaving the EU
    • adapting to climate change
  • the Capital Spending Review - released alongside the Infrastructure Investment Plan, focusing on environmental, economic, and place objectives and investment plans
  • A blueprint for Scotland - published in two parts last year by the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland, with wide-ranging recommendations in areas such as:
    • the relationship between construction and the public sector, especially in the context of COVID-19, and with a focus on skills, training, and careers
    • developing an inclusive net-zero carbon economy and the basis for project funding decisions
    • planning, the importance of natural and place-based infrastructure, and a focus on existing assets
    • a devolved regulatory and pricing framework, and greater engagement of the public in decision-making
    • working towards delivery of a full fibre network by 2027

Sessions in the agenda look at:

  • priorities for implementing the Infrastructure Investment Plan
  • the role of infrastructure in supporting post-pandemic recovery
  • what is needed from infrastructure development to contribute to meeting net-zero ambitions
  • next steps for regional development
  • developing digital infrastructure

The agenda

  • Priorities for implementing the Infrastructure Investment Plan
  • The role of infrastructure upgrades in supporting post-pandemic recovery, boosting productivity and connectivity, and the creation of high-quality jobs
  • Meeting net-zero ambitions and supporting natural infrastructure, developing sustainable and resilient places and communities, the transition to green transport solutions, and improving waste and flood risk management
  • The next steps for regional development, city and growth deals and supporting local economies, improving access to services, and the future for home-based living post-pandemic
  • Developing digital infrastructure, streamlining public services, boosting connectivity and coverage, and the focus on access and inclusivity

Key areas for discussion:

Priorities for implementing the Infrastructure Investment Plan:

  • COVID-19 - how Scottish infrastructure can best be supported to address regional and national needs in the wake of the pandemic
  • existing assets - the implications of enhancing and developing existing infrastructure before undertaking new projects
  • a broader definition of infrastructure - cross-government work, and identifying opportunities and challenges brought about through collating a range of policy priorities

The role of infrastructure upgrades in supporting post-pandemic recovery:

  • collaboration - the role of partnership working between government, industries, sectors, and higher education institutions to support economic recovery in key areas, such as skills and training
  • economic recovery - the extent to which infrastructure can provide an economic stimulus, and the potential for creating high-quality green jobs
  • innovation - examining the use of technology to boost productivity
  • a sector-based approach - priorities for developing sectors such as manufacturing, with the establishment of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland
  • UK-wide policy development - assessing ways in which Scotland’s transport infrastructure policies may work alongside broader policy priorities around the UK, such as those identified in the Union Connectivity Review
    • following issues highlighted in the Union Connectivity Review interim report around links and connections by air, rail, and road
    • with recent tensions between the UK and Scottish Governments over the focus of the review, and the extent of engagement from The Scottish Government

Meeting net-zero ambitions and supporting natural infrastructure:

  • decarbonising heat in buildings and improving energy efficiency - assessing:
    • the findings of the Heat in Buildings consultation
    • how the Government develops its thinking on tackling fuel poverty and the costs associated with new systems, at the same time as working towards climate change targets 
  • collaboration:
    • work between government, industry, and academia in this area, with UKRI and industry funding towards onshore and offshore infrastructure
    • discussion expected on Scotland’s Net Zero Infrastructure (SNZI), part of the UK industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programme, hoping to bring environmental, employment, and competitive benefits
  • woodlands - examining plans to increase forest cover, as well as some concerns relating to new woodland in upland areas
  • transport - improving the resilience and reliability of existing transport infrastructure
  • water - evaluating the efficacy of investment by Scottish Water to address its ageing asset base, and priorities for improving flood risk management
  • waste management - assessing the new Recycling Improvement Fund, for selected councils to carry out projects to improve recycling options for communities

The next steps for regional development:

  • policy priorities:
    • what is needed to help ensure the success of city and growth deals
    • supporting local economies
    • improving access to services
    • the future for home-based living post-pandemic
  • supporting local communities:
    • providing and maintaining adequate infrastructure that is able to withstand additional pressures in the future
    • discussing the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which aims to protect communities and enhance the visitor experience, as well as other ongoing programmes
  • urban land and regeneration:
    • options for maximising the use of urban land and regeneration opportunities, and making the most of investment, such as the Vacant and Derelict Land Fund
    • with discussion expected on the potential for further outdoor spaces and land for community facilities - following last year’s recommendations from the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce
  • inclusive economic growth - including access to superfast broadband, particularly in light of:
    • discussion around the potential extent of remote working in the future
    • the challenges and opportunities this may present to industry, employees and employers

Developing digital infrastructure:

  • policy priorities - what will be needed from government, regulators, industry, and local government in streamlining public services, boosting connectivity, coverage, access and inclusivity
  • existing infrastructure:
    • the potential for furthering and improving existing digital infrastructure
    • next steps for the Shared Rural Network, aiming to support productivity and improve choice in rural areas by extending mobile coverage
    • maximising benefits expected for sectors such as hospitality, transport and communications
  • social infrastructure - priorities for ensuring its quality, and examining the impact of forthcoming investment such as the £2bn Learning Estate Investment Programme between the Government and local authorities

Relevant Developments:

  • The Scottish Government’s Infrastructure Investment Plan - published in February, outlining plans for developing infrastructure in Scotland over the coming years:
    • forming part of the response to the pandemic, as well as to changes resulting from Brexit and climate change:
    • the Plan includes:
      • The Scottish Government accepting the recommendations of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland (outlined below)
      • particular emphasis on supporting jobs and stimulating the economy
      • acknowledging support in responses to consultation for including natural infrastructure in the overall definition of ‘infrastructure’
      • calls on the UK Government for further fiscal flexibility 
  • the Capital Spending Review - published alongside the Infrastructure Investment Plan, focusing on environmental, economic, and place objectives, with investment over five years including:
    • transport - £550m towards active travel; £3.8bn for the rail network; and £1.5bn for maintaining roads and bridges and improving safety
    • net-zero - £1.6bn for decarbonising heat in buildings, and £550m for rail decarbonisation
    • local economic development - £525m in order to deliver the next stage of the city and growth deals programme
    • housing - £3.4bn investment, the vast majority of which is allocated for aims around affordable and social housing, place, tenure and location, and regional development
    • water - £4.5bn from Scottish Water for improving services, dealing with ageing assets, and reducing emissions
    • education and health - £2bn Learning Estate Investment Programme funding, alongside around £1bn for health maintenance
  • the Green datacentres and digital connectivity: vision and action plan for Scotland - published by The Scottish Government in March, with key recommendations, including to: 
    • attract investors that require high-speed data transit and take advantage of enhanced international fibre connectivity
    • build on the capacity to generate energy from renewable sources
    • ensure the potential of technologies is realised across all parts of Scotland
    • improve internet resilience and provide direct links to other countries 
  • the SNP’s First steps - the plan for the first 100 days following the election: 
    • deliver 40,000 digital devices, building on attempts to end digital exclusion
    • provide mobile coverage in remote areas 
  • the Phase 2: Delivery Findings Report: A blueprint for Scotland - published in July 2020 by the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland:
    • providing further detail on the place principle and advisory structures
    • identifying opportunities to develop the relationship between construction and the public sector, especially in the context of COVID-19
    • recommending the creation of a Construction Accord, with a focus on skills, training, and careers
  • the Key Findings Report: A blueprint for Scotland - published in January 2020 by the Commission, with key recommendations including:
    • an inclusive net-zero carbon economy as the basis for decisions on funding projects
    • a new Scottish Infrastructure Needs Assessment, with natural infrastructure included as a sector
    • the importance of place-based infrastructure, including the introduction of an ‘infrastructure first’ approach to planning
    • a focus on existing assets, with a presumption in favour of shared facilities over single-purpose buildings, and improving or reimagining existing infrastructure over new projects
    • a devolved regulatory and pricing framework
    • working towards delivery of a full fibre network by 2027
    • greater engagement of the public in decision-making
    • an advisory body to be set up with responsibility of advising Scottish Ministers on investment
  • A Changing Nation: how Scotland will thrive in a digital world - a recent Digital Strategy from The Scottish Government for driving up Scotland’s capacity in the digital landscape, with its recommendations related to infrastructure including:
    • ensuring Scotland is a digitally inclusive nation, and that digital acceleration is sustainable and contributes to productivity, improved resilience, and economic recovery
    • building public services that are accessible and simple to use, and realising the opportunities of digital working


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Health and Safety Executive; HM Revenue & Customs; the Office of Rail & Road and The Scottish Government. Also due to attend are representatives from Audit Scotland; East Ayrshire Council; Falkirk Council; G H Johnston Building Consultants; Historic Environment Scotland and University of Edinburgh.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of the Scottish Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as representatives from construction and engineering firms, property and land developers, urban and city planners, logistics groups, business consultancies, energy companies, transport bodies, representatives of local government, resident associations, environmental groups, investment groups, law firms, and researchers in academia and higher education, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Senior speaker confirmed from the Scottish Government


Pauline McNeill MSP

Shadow Labour Spokesperson (Justice)

Ronnie Cowan MP

Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure)


Nicola Hudson

Senior Analyst, Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe)

Duncan Simpson

Co-chair, RMAS Technical and Innovation Group, and Founder, Duncan Simpson Associates

Alan James

Director, Storegga

Gary Smith

Scotland Secretary, GMB

Phil Prentice

Chief Officer, Scotland’s Towns Partnership

Councillor Norman Hampshire

East Lothian Planning Committee Convener

George Gillespie

Executive Director, Neighbourhoods and Sustainability, Glasgow City Council

Louisa Macdonell

CEO, Development Trusts Association Scotland (DTAS)

James McClafferty

Public Sector Director for Scotland, CityFibre

Fionna Kell

Director of Policy, Homes for Scotland

Stephen Slessor

Operations Director, Morrison Construction

Dr Jamie Stewart

Depute Director, Centre for Energy Policy, University of Strathclyde

Gordon Watson

Chief Executive, Loch Lomond and the Trosssachs National Park

Kerry Alexander

Director, Infrastructure Finance and Programmes, Scottish Futures Trust