Calls for Theresa May to deliver on party promises amid fears changes will affect investment in Edinburgh

Theresa May visits Wester Hailes in 2009. Picture: Greg Macvean
Theresa May visits Wester Hailes in 2009. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Politicians are calling on the new UK government to deliver on a promised multi-billion-pound deal to boost investment in Edinburgh, amid continuing political upheaval.

The Capital’s long-awaited City Region Deal will pump up to £2 billion of public money into the regional economy – with the potential to attract a further £5bn of private sector cash.

But opposition councillors previously raised fears the “deep political instability” caused by Brexit could throw the plans into chaos.

And mass changes in the Tory party and Theresa May’s appointment as Prime Minister have further added to uncertainty, as question marks hang over the future role of George Osborne, current Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr Osborne is widely seen as one of the key architects of the City Deals being rolled out across the UK, and some fear the momentum may be lost if he changes role or leaves the Cabinet.

The concerns come as Stirling Council issued a statement insisting its officials were “redoubling their efforts” to secure their own City Deal investment “following the unprecedented political events of recent weeks”.

Council leader Johanna Boyd said it was crucial recent political upheaval and uncertainty over Britain’s vote to leave the EU did not affect Stirling’s plans, which are “well-advanced and have widespread support”.

Edinburgh’s deal is expected to kick-start massive infrastructure projects and development, as well as injecting extra investment into culture and tourism.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP, insisted the ambitious proposals must push forward despite the economic uncertainty.

He said: “I think at this time the new Prime Minister must find as much stability on a domestic front as possible – and that means making good on commitments made by the previous administration, including the City Deal.

“I would appeal to Theresa May that now more than ever we need the confidence to proceed and plan and develop the Edinburgh of the future, which will be a world-class business epicentre and will continue to attract tourism and investment.”

Meanwhile, Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the effect of the current political disruption on the City Deal was “of course” a worry.

But he argued that, with David Mundell expected to stay on as Secretary of State for Scotland, there would be some stability.

He added: “We’ve got a change of Prime Minister, but we have not had a change of government. There’s nothing there to tell me that their policies are going to fundamentally change in terms of City Deals.

“There’s not enough information really to say that there’s good news or not on the City Deal. The whole thing is being conducted in some secrecy. Because there’s so much secrecy, I’m not sure what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Andy Wightman, Lothian Green MSP, said: “Those Leave campaigners, many of whom have retreated from frontline politics, didn’t really think through all of the consequences and upheaval that leaving the European Union would bring.

“Scottish Greens will be watching Prime Minister May’s new Cabinet appointments closely and we’ll be quick to remind the Tories of the manifesto commitments that they made just over a year ago.”

The Capital’s City Region Deal is due for final submission to the UK and Scottish governments in late summer, with bosses hoping it will then be implemented before the end of the year.

Edinburgh City Council will pump £100 million into the plans, while the other bid 
partners – East Lothian, Fife, Midlothian, Scottish Borders and West Lothian councils – are also set to contribute.

A spokeswoman for the city council declined to comment on concerns over the deal.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon today called for Scotland’s continued place in the European Union to be a top priority for the new Prime Minister.

The First Minister said she looked forward to developing a “constructive relationship” with Mrs May and added that, despite their political differences, they each had a duty to work in the best interests if the people they served.

Ms Sturgeon added: “A key part of my responsibility in the months ahead – in line with the democratic will of the Scottish people – is to protect Scotland’s place in the EU and avoid, as far as possible, the economic damage and prolonged uncertainty that Brexit will entail.

“The incoming PM has said to her party that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – but she must not forget that Scotland voted to stay in the EU, and so for us remain means remain.

“While I do not agree with the decision on the EU reached by people in England and Wales, I do respect it. I hope the new PM will show the same respect for the decision reached by the Scottish people.”

She said it would be an early test for the new Prime Minister to demonstrate that the process the UK government would now embark on was open to considering options to protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

Ms Sturgeon is in London today for a series of meetings, including a roundtable in the City and talks with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, another part of the UK that also voted to remain in the EU.