Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal - a £1.1billion transformational masterplan
They say that all good things come to those who wait. And that was certainly the case with the recent signing of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.
It has involved detailed negotiations and thanks to the Scottish Government, UK Government, six Scottish local authorities and major partners from across the region, we now have a City Deal worth £1.1bn. Supporting economic growth and tackling inequality across the region, it is estimated that the deal will generate over £5bn worth of Gross Value Added and deliver 21,000 jobs.
Of course, we know that Edinburgh and its city region is an area of huge importance to the Scottish economy, containing over a quarter of the population and contributing £33 billion to the Scottish and UK economies. Edinburgh is the most prosperous city in the UK outside London and the most productive in Scotland.
So why the need for a City Region Deal? While we are undoubtedly a prosperous region, significant numbers of people are missing out on this success. With 21% of children living in poverty, for example, it is essential that we look at ways of tackling this and the Deal will play a key role.
Over the next 20 years, there will be 200,000 more people living here, placing yet more strain on our infrastructure, housing stock and community services. So, this Deal isn’t only about accelerating growth; it’s about putting in place the fundamentals to cope with it in a sustainable and equitable way.
Turning to the specifics of the Deal, the significant investment in innovation and culture is welcome as they are both hugely important to the region’s economy. Indeed, the Deal represents the single largest public sector investment in innovation yet seen in any UK city.
We are already home to world class research and development but thanks to the University of Edinburgh’s element of the Deal, we can now cement Edinburgh’s position as the data capital of Europe over the next 10 years.
The University will partner local authorities, schools and employers to train 100,000 people in the necessary skills to create the workforce of the future, while also developing and encouraging new entrepreneurs to form high growth companies and deliver high quality products and services.
They will also partner Heriot Watt University to open the UK’s first national Robotarium, propelling both Edinburgh, the Region and Scotland to the forefront of the global robotics stage.
And in East Lothian, a state-of Food and Drink Innovation Campus, located at Queen Margaret University, will enhance and grow the nation’s food and drink sector, stimulating economic growth based on both national and international markets.
These improved employment and training initiatives will help ensure that the key sectors of our economy that are driving growth provide opportunities to people in communities across the Region.
There has long been an aspiration to deliver a world class home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the City Region Deal will deliver just that with a new concert hall right in the heart of our historic New Town. The combination of public and private money to deliver this, in particular through the generous support of the Dunard Fund, demonstrates the strength of partnership working in realising this ambitious project.
In addition, we continue discussions with the Scottish Government on how to support our 11 major festivals, whose cultural contribution puts Edinburgh on the world map while also generating £313m annually of economic impact to Scotland, and we look forward to an announcement on this in due course.
The investment in housing and infrastructure will also help us manage, and capitalise on, the Region’s growth.
The regional partners have already set out an ambitious ten-year programme to build more affordable homes and the Deal will enable us to increase delivery in the sector, stimulate private investment and support local jobs.
We welcome the establishment of a housing infrastructure fund that will provide loans to private developers to accelerate progress on sites which have proved difficult to deliver in the past. This will be an ‘evergreen’ fund, with loans paid back as housing is built and sold. The City of Edinburgh Council will also establish a new housing company to increase the supply of ‘mid-market’ properties, while the deal will help West Lothian Council delver the large scale Winchburgh housing development, one of the key strategic sites in the region.
The £20m commitment for transport infrastructure in West Edinburgh will help unlock development in this key area. Discussions with stakeholders on a new delivery plan for the International Business Gateway can now progress and will include public transport improvements; increased active travel, and improvements to the road network.
Meanwhile, the City Bypass Sheriff Hall roundabout plan will be taken forward by Transport Scotland in consultation with Edinburgh, Midlothian, East Lothian and Scottish Borders Councils.
Clearly, then, the City Region Deal is a major vote of confidence in the economic strengths of Edinburgh and South East Scotland.
It will provide a welcome economic boost for decades to come. Focusing on our strengths in technology, innovation and culture, it will make a real difference to the lives of people in the region, creating jobs and prosperity and driving investment, while delivering a better and more equal society.
We look forward to working with both governments and other partners to deliver on the commitments in this landmark deal. It will be worth the wait.