Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Scottish Futures Trust disaster

I don't much rate the SNP administration at Holyrood, elected on promises undelivered, high on populism and low on any achievement. However, in terms of its long-term legacy of failure, its hopeless management of capital infrastructure financing will cause the most damage. Step forward the Scottish Futures Trust :

• The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) has been an expensive failure. It is a political white elephant which has achieved nothing for Scotland. It should be scrapped.

• It cost £23 million in set up costs alone, whilst its budget for this year is doubling to £5.9million and the Chief Executive is being paid £180,000. The CBI has called it a ‘fiasco’ and independent reports say that it is unlikely to be any cheaper than PFI/PPP.

• Despite what the SNP want us to believe, the SFT has no role in funding schools, the Forth Crossing or anything else. Instead, the SFT has caused a major hiatus in the construction industry as the SNP Government have delayed capital projects in order to ‘develop’ the SFT enough to give an impression it has a role – the SNP saving face is not an excuse for delaying the replacing of crumbling schools, nor is it an excuse for cuts to construction jobs and apprenticeships.

• Far from a radical alternative that will revolutionise public investment, the SNP’s much-derided flagship financial policy has turned out simply to be a new quango which will act as an advisory body for the public sector. It has no funding stream and there is no evidence of when or how it will make the promised annual £150 million efficiency savings.

• Projects around the country are being delayed as a result of the SFT uncertainty. In a recession there is a serious need to delivered infrastructure for Scotland’s economy but the SFT is fast becoming a national embarrassment. The SNP must put the Futures Trust in the past and get on with building the schools and hospitals Scotland needs.

The Scottish Futures Trust & School Building:

• The Scottish Futures Trust is not funding school building, despite the SNP’s attempts to pretend otherwise. We are also still no further forward in knowing whether the SFT will ever provide funding for infrastructure development.

• The £800m of direct capital investment announced by the Scottish Government in June could have been made 2 years ago. Councils have been forced to wait while the SNP try to save face over the SFT, which isn’t contributing a single penny to this School Building Programme, or any other infrastructure investment.

• Under the School Building Programme the first primary school won’t be built until 2011, the first secondary school in 2013 and some schools will be delayed until 2018. The SNP pledged that they would match the previous administration’s school building ‘brick for brick’. However, the School Building Programme is only funding 14 secondary schools and 21 primary and specialist schools.

• Despite LibDem calls for the reintroduction of level playing field support for councils which would have helped councils plan ahead with their school building, the Government neither listened nor delivered.