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Construction News Q&A with SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie

Scottish National Party deputy leader Stewart Hosie sets out his party’s views on housing, High Speed 2 and the UK’s place in Europe.

Which three SNP policies would most benefit construction - and why are these important?

Our manifesto sets out our position that we will seek adequate transport infrastructure investment, with a particular aim of improving transport and communication links across the north of these isles.

That includes connecting Scotland to HS2 as a priority, with construction beginning in Scotland as well as in England, and a high-speed connection between Glasgow, Edinburgh and the North of England as part of any high-speed rail network.

“We are determined to use capital investment to create jobs and support higher levels of economic growth”

We will back a housebuilding target across the UK of 100,000 affordable homes per year.

We are determined to use capital investment to create jobs and support higher levels of economic growth.

This additional investment would support at least 6,500 jobs in the construction sector in Scotland.

In addition, we are supporting Scottish construction by providing £30m of ringfenced support for smaller developers within the Help to Buy Scotland scheme.

Concerns are growing in the industry that exiting the EU would lead to a further shortage of skilled workers in the UK. Are these concerns legitimate?

Membership of the EU provides the best international framework within which Scotland can make economic and social gains - the EU is the world’s largest economy and trading area, capable of competing with the most advanced economies in the world.

“Scotland has positively benefited from an increase in the labour supply from Central Europe”

I believe strongly that Scotland being taken out of the EU in a referendum in circumstances where a majority of Scots had voted to stay in would be massively damaging economically and have major constitutional implications.

Scotland has positively benefited from an increase in the labour supply from Central Europe.

The free movement of workers ensures employers find the people with the right skills for the right jobs, and we will continue to present the case for remaining in the EU so that Scotland’s construction industry and many sectors can continue to benefit from this increased pool of skilled workers.

How do you see construction being affected by leaving the EU and how would you look to counter any negative impacts?

The Scottish Government is opposed to an ‘in-out’ referendum on EU membership in 2017.

A ‘no’ vote in respect of this carries significant risk for growth and jobs in Scotland.

“Our ‘double majority’ proposal is necessary to prevent Scotland from being taken out of the EU against the will of its people”

If there is a referendum, the Scottish Government, the people of Scotland and the SNP believe that for the UK to leave the EU, it should require not just a majority across the whole UK but a majority in each one of the four nations (a ‘double majority’).

Our ‘double majority’ proposal is necessary to safeguard the future prosperity of Scotland and prevent Scotland from being taken out of the EU against the will of its people.

If Labour forms the next government, would the SNP support its plans for a National Infrastructure Commission?

Our proposals for additional expenditure in the next parliament will include substantial new infrastructure investment.

Properly deployed, capital expenditure has the ability to cut inequalities by providing good, well-paid employment, with opportunities for the long-term unemployed, for apprenticeships and for wider skills and professional development.

It also serves to expand the productive capacity of Scotland, making our economy more competitive, with improved connectivity and infrastructure that is fit for the 21st century.

We would consider supporting any measures that aim to take forward these objectives.

Do you think the coalition has failed the industry and if so what in particular do you think it could have done differently?

The SNP Scottish Government continues to support the construction industry throughout Scotland by investing in capital expenditure despite cuts of around one quarter to our capital budget by the UK Government.

“We have repeatedly called on Westminster to inject capital funding and infrastructure activity that will boost the construction sector”

We have repeatedly called on Westminster to abandon austerity policies which are economically unsustainable, to adopt a strategy that focuses on growth, and to inject capital funding and infrastructure activity that will boost the Scottish construction sector and boost local economies in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The decision to increase airport capacity in the South-east will be a priority for the next government. What is the SNP’s preferred option?

Our strategy on air passenger duty and the improvement of Scotland’s international air connectivity is well documented, as is our advocacy of the need to secure Scotland’s access to the airports in the South-east of England.

“Until we have control of all the policy relating to aviation, we will have to continue to advocate changes to the UK government strategy”

We want to have policies that are geared for the reality of the needs of aviation in Scotland, rather than in the congested South-east.

Until we have control of all the policy and regulatory levers relating to aviation, we will have to continue to advocate changes reflecting our ambitions to the UK Government strategy.

The SNP manifesto states: “Whether in Scotland or at Westminster, our focus will be on growing Scotland’s economy and making life better for people across our country.” But what would the SNP do for the regions across the UK?

Our manifesto sets out an alternative to austerity. We oppose further spending cuts and propose modest spending increases - of 0.5 per cent above inflation - in each year of the next parliament.

That policy would still see the debt and deficit reduce as a proportion of national income in every year from 2016/17; it would also free up at least an additional £140bn across the UK over the next parliament.

That money could be used to invest in infrastructure and innovation, protect public services and ease the pressure on the most vulnerable, not just in Scotland but all regions of the UK.

If money was no object, what would be your dream project?

It’s nice to dream but I take very seriously my responsibility to make sensible and well-informed decisions about how to spend taxpayers’ money.

There has been plenty of criticism around London’s ever changing skyline. What do you think of capital’s iconic buildings such as the Shard, the Heron Tower or the Gherkin?

Every capital city has its own iconic buildings. In Scotland, buildings such as Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument and many others dominate the skyline of our great capital and contribute towards its unique character and appeal.

Do you have a favourite and a least favourite building?

The plans for the V&A in Dundee that is currently under construction looks like it is set to be one of the most exciting buildings built in recent years; if it lives up to expectations I am sure it will quickly be a firm favourite.

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