Edinburgh economy racing ahead of the rest of UK

Retail sales are on the increase. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Retail sales are on the increase. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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EDINBURGH’S economy is racing ahead of the rest of the UK – with the city boasting falling unemployment, hundreds of new businesses and soaring tourism.

The council’s monthly Economy Watch also revealed that more foreign investors were looking towards the Capital.

Experts said the city was bouncing back from setbacks such as the financial crisis and recession.

For the past two months, retail spend has bucked national trends, with sales up 5.5 per cent in March compared with last year. And unemployment is now down to just 1.8 per cent – markedly lower than the 2.4 per cent rate across Scotland.

Graham Birse, director of the Edinburgh Institute at Napier University, insisted the Capital was “outperforming most cities outside of London”.

He said: “The city has been doing well for some time 
actually. It emerged earlier from the recession than most other cities in the UK outside of London.

“Edinburgh is an attractive place in which to live, work and invest. But we also need to ensure that the way in which we respond to inward investors – providing them with office space and advice, and supporting them through the planning application process – is as efficient and effective as possible.”

An impressive 1637 new businesses were set up in the Capital over the three months to April 2015 – a 5.1 per cent increase on last month – while Edinburgh Airport enjoyed its busiest April on record. And over the 12 months to March 2015, 32 different foreign investment projects brought stacks of extra cash into the city, creating 447 new jobs in the process.

Councillor Frank Ross, the city’s economy leader, insisted the figures were “further evidence of Edinburgh’s resilient economy”.

And Gordon Henderson, senior development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said the strong results were down to the city’s desirability as a location and its blossoming tourism sector. He said: “Edinburgh’s economy is regularly ahead of the Scotland-wide figures. It’s a very resilient economy and one of the strongest in the country.”

Despite the reasons to be cheerful, critics fear scandals such as the stat repairs issue, the city’s pothole problem and prolonged tram works have created a negative perception of the Capital.

Michael Apter, chair of the West End Business Improvement District’s steering group, said there was still work to be done to ensure businesses flourish, including tackling litter, parking issues and empty shops.

And Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said city chiefs needed to plough extra investment into roads and services to help residents feel the benefits of a booming economy.

He said: “Clearly it’s a constant battle to keep Edinburgh’s roads smooth, safe and litter-free and so on, but it’s a battle that needs to be fought.”