Liz McAreavey: From the post-Brexit world to Edinburgh 2050, forward planning is key

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce's Liz McAreavey. Picture: contributed

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce's Liz McAreavey. Picture: contributed

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September saw the launch of “Edinburgh 2050”, the City Vision being developed by Edinburgh City Council. Whilst civic leaders have taken the initiative, they are clear that this will not be a City Council Vision but one decided by the city.

Individual citizens, communities, organisations and businesses are being asked to help feed a process of collaboration that the council hopes will create a model for shared and sustained success for our city in the decades ahead. Over the coming months Edinburgh Chamber will be engaging with the Capital’s business community to ensure its contribution is heard and understood.

2050 seems a long way ahead. Yet without an ambitious and bold vision we will not feature in the top cities of the world. Whilst, we can expect many things to be different – infrastructure, technology, our workforce, we need to take action now to achieve our long-term goals of continued prosperity. Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city, has the highest qualified workforce in the UK, was recently reported to be the second most sustainable city in the UK next to London, a position it also occupies in terms of GVA per capital and average earnings. We need to ensure we not only maintain but also increase our competitive advantage.

In Edinburgh at least, the business community is actively engaged in a process designed to benefit us all for many, many years to come. What we need, urgently, is some kind of similar process at a UK level. Business leaders see huge change on the horizon. All businesses want and need the clearest picture possible of what is in store so they can plan ahead, adapt and capitalise on the opportunities as well as safeguard against threat. In other words, we need a clear vision for what the UK will look like post-Brexit and beyond.

There is much rhetoric about Brexit – hard, soft, none at all – but what we really need is clarity on our industrial strategy, on how the Department of International Trade will ensure we prosper in a global market. On how we maintain the talent that will run the most successful businesses in the world and that we continue to innovate. We are a multicultural and international nation that has always reached out to the rest of the world.

With vast change upon us, from Brexit to devolved powers, new fiscal frameworks and government departments, business’ voice needs to inform what the next 35 years will look like in our city. “Those without a vision for their future will always return to their past” – and that is true for Edinburgh. The city’s history and heritage plays a huge part in its success and our pride in the Capital, but now is the time to look forward and create a truly informed, vision that will cement its success in the future.

Liz McAreavey is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce