I suggest that the Scottish Government needs to look at the issue quickly. Over the years, I have raised with the minister the fact that front loading is a serious problem. I intend to write to the minister in the coming days, setting out the number of developments that are being stalled right now and those that will have to stop unless the matter can be resolved. I am having those discussions with local authorities, which are saying that it is a problem but not one that they can solve. At a time when we want to tackle the housing crisis, when we should be encouraging more skills and apprenticeships in housing and when we need more jobs, surely we need to pull together to address this problem.
I point out to Alex Rowley something that, as a former council leader, he already knows. It is the statutory responsibility of local authorities to manage their school estate. The Scottish Government’s funding through the school-building programme is intended to augment, not replace, a local authority’s investment in the school estate. The new £1 billion learning estate investment programme will benefit approximately 50,000 pupils across Scotland by the end of the next parliamentary session. That package includes replacement schools for Woodmill and St Columba’s high schools, in Fife.
Beyond that, city deal commitments mean that we have been in discussion with local authorities about other aspects of this. We put in place the Winchburgh standby facility, and I understand that Fife Council is developing an outline business case to deliver 8,000 new homes in the Dunfermline area, 25 per cent of which will be affordable.
I am always more than willing to speak to Mr Rowley about any issue, and I look forward to receiving his letter. I will make sure that he gets a prompt response.
As a direct result of the chancellor’s spending review, Scotland is seeing its capital budget cut by 5 per cent going forward, with no explanation given. What impact is that likely to have on capital investment not just in schools but in hospitals, housing, roads and so on?
It is, indeed, the case that the Scottish Government’s capital budget is being cut by more than 5 per cent. Scotland needs an infrastructure-led economic recovery to deliver new jobs and speed up the transition to net zero carbon. We know that capital investment can have one of the biggest positive impacts on economic growth, so a cut during this time is especially harmful and goes against the grain, because most other countries are investing in capital projects at the moment in order to ensure an economic recovery from Covid. What that action by the United Kingdom Government means is fewer homes, fewer schools and fewer hospitals, as Mr Gibson has pointed out. That is why we need independence.