Comment: Near £1bn investment is shot in arm

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It is hard to overestimate the impact which the £850 million revamp of the St James Centre will have on life in the Capital.

For many years now, Edinburgh has trailed behind not just Glasgow when it comes to shopping, but many other European cities of a comparable size.

That is not just an observation based on the streams of happy, bag-laden shoppers who disembark from the Glasgow trains in Edinburgh every Saturday afternoon, it is the view of the expert analysts, too. The Capital was pegged a depressing 56th out of 57 European cities by one recent shopping report, by Jones Lang LaSalle, which also highlighted the fact that just 46 out of 250 leading international brands had a presence in Edinburgh. The new St James Quarter will change all that.

It is easy to take the attitude that this is just a shopping centre. That is undeniably true, but there is much more to it as well. Shopping is a key part of what a city has to offer both its residents and visitors. In Edinburgh, we have in spades most of the other things that make a city a great place to live, from culture and history to beautiful buildings and green spaces. It doesn’t even rain that much here compared to the dreich west.

What has been missing though is the kind of modern shopping environment that would attract more of the big name brands to join the likes of Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and the soon-to-open Apple.

The impact of the revamp will be massive both in terms of the disruption caused by up to six years of building work and the transforming effect on the entire city centre. Shoppers will naturally gravitate towards the east, and Princes Street will have to evolve, perhaps by embracing the vision for the West End as an entertainment destination.

When there is still a degree of business uncertainty across the UK, this near £1 billion investment is a huge shot in the arm for Edinburgh. It will be exciting to watch the results.