Chapter 4.2.1 Strategic approaches

Place net zero at the heart of infrastructure investment

Place net zero at the heart of Scottish infrastructure investment and abolish the use of Public Private Partnerships going forward.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

Scotland aims to reach net zero emissions by 2045. As part of this plan the Government has committed £1.8bn to “transform our homes and buildings over the next Parliament.” It is essential that this investment is used wisely and not necessarily just to build new infrastructure. Local authorities often turn to Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to finance much needed public infrastructure, however as well as the exorbitant cost and poor value for money, these financing models can lead to poor quality, short-lived new buildings when existing buildings could have been retrofitted and repurposed.

Within PPP contracts, private companies need to ensure profits for their stakeholders, meaning their design and construction decisions are not necessarily based on Net Zero principles or even on creating sustainable, enduring buildings. Contractors have historically had no interest in old buildings being repaired and repurposed, as this does not promise the big financial rewards sought by these companies. Many buildings around Scotland have stood the test of time – repairing and retrofitting them could be the most sensible and sustainable solution and may avoid the additional carbon emissions created through initial construction and replacement of PPP schools, hospitals and other public buildings.

The Scottish Government needs to place net zero at the heart of public infrastructure investment. Abolishing the use of Public Private Partnerships going forward, and seeking an alternative financing model, will remove excessive private profits from the equation and ensure decisions areinstead based on sustainability and creating infrastructure that is fit for purpose for communities and the planet.

In addition, the UK Government should invest at least £30bn a year in green projects to create jobs and put the country on track to achieve its climate targets.89 This investment should address the inequalities and deprivation that have been made worse by the pandemic.

Co-benefits include economic and social justice – Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) have, in all their forms, saddled the Scottish public sector with high levels of debt, poor service provision, lack of accountability, and in some cases, projects financed by PPPs have resulted in unsafe buildings.90 In ensuring public funds are invested responsibly we could ensure more money is available for fair wages for those who provide our services such as teachers, carers, nurses and doctors.

For further information:


UK MPs call for extra £30bn to aid green recovery from Covid-19, Guardian, 2020,


For example, Defects found at 72 more Scottish school buildings, BBC, 2017,

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.