Councils hope £1bn bid will help growth

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A £1 BILLION bid aimed at unlocking new funds for research, transport and housing in the Lothians has been handed to ministers – sparking hope the plan will lead to a step-change in the region’s economic performance.

Council bosses in the Capital today joined counterparts from the three Lothian authorities, Fife and the Scottish Borders to submit detailed proposals to the Westminster and Scottish governments.

The move marks a milestone for the planned City Region Deal, which will be considered by Chancellor George Osborne ahead of an expected update during his autumn statement later this year.

New funds arising from a formal agreement, which could include additional private sector investment worth £3.2bn, are to be ploughed into the advanced 
research, culture and technology sectors.

It is understood the Roslin Institute – home of Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal – and the Edinburgh Bioquarter at Little France will be at the centre of what city council sources have described as “big development plans”.

Lothian leaders hope the deal will transform economic growth and productivity by reducing poverty and improving transport between their regions and the Capital.

Ian Johnson, Midlothian Council’s head of communities and economy, said: “As an integral part of the Edinburgh City Region, Midlothian is ideally placed to benefit from the City Deal.

“In addition to infrastructure projects such as improved transport links and digital connectivity to accelerate economic growth, there are real opportunities to address areas of deprivation and inequality.”

Councillor John McGinty, leader of West Lothian Council, said: “The aim of creating this fund is to build on our strengths, encourage a growing and thriving business community which improves employment opportunities, minimises poverty and deprivation, and improves the quality of life for local people.”

A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council added: “Investment of this level, plus potentially more from private sector investors will make a huge difference to this area and our focus will be on unlocking the constraints to growth, supporting higher education, business, innovation and addressing any inequalities in our communities.”

Council bosses in Edinburgh stressed that boosting the Capital’s independence would be a key feature of any agreement.

City leader Andrew Burns said: “Our ask is for greater autonomy and decision-making powers, increased opportunities for learning and development along with the creation of a regional-specific skills programme, and investment in crucial infrastructure projects.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com