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RIAS welcomes new Scottish borrowing powers

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The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) has welcomed news that funding for major new infrastructure projects in Scotland is to be brought forward

It is understood that about £200 million of a £2.2 billion fund could be made available to provide financial support for such projects as the new £1.6 billion bridge over the Firth of Forth.

The earlier-than-expected funding - announced by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg - is part of new legislation to enhance Scottish devolution.

The borrowing powers were expected to be in place by 2013 as part of the Scotland Bill, but will now be available this year.

RIAS secretary and treasurer Neil Baxter said: ‘Any measure which improves public sector access to finance has to be a good thing for architecture.

‘One reason for recent government reliance on procuring through Megacorp Construction Inc has been PFI and PPP agreements which include finance as part of the deal. 

‘It is self evident that if government can borrow at cheaper rates that will reduce their reliance on big contractors. It is also evident to anyone who has ever been involved in procuring any project that giving the architect a central, rather than a marginal role is invariably a much better route to quality.’

The news was also welcomed by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Craig McClaren, RTPI national director for Scotland said: ‘It’s going to be something that is very useful. A number of sites in Scotland have stalled because of the lack of infrastructure funding upfront. Hopefully some of this money could be used to put some of that infrastructure in and take some of those projects forward.’

He added: ‘The Forth Bridge is part of the national planning framework and there are other things in the framework that the Scottish Government might look at as well. But I think that it would be interesting to see if it could be used for broader infrastructure investment.’

Clegg said: ‘I can confirm that we will be coming forward with new plans that will allow the Scottish Government to have access to money this year. This is earlier than was envisaged so that money can be invested in capital projects like the construction of a new Forth bridge.’

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