Trust in leadership is crucial to rebuilding our economy - Liz McAreavey

Rarely has trust and confidence in our leaders been more critical for our city, for Scotland and for the UK than it is right now as we begin the task of rebuilding our economy.
Liz McAreaveyLiz McAreavey
Liz McAreavey

Any walk in Edinburgh’s city centre provides a clear illustration of the enormous scale of the challenge we face following the catastrophic impact of the Covid 19 pandemic and its restrictions.

Despite our first tentative steps back to some normality, many businesses remain closed or are operating amid unsustainable conditions. 20 per cent of businesses in the city face the risk of insolvency and that rises to 30 per cent for the hospitality sector, eight per cent may not survive the next three months.

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There are close to 40,000 furloughed workers in the city with two thirds from the hospitality and culture sector, and a high unemployment legacy of over 22,000 now claiming benefits

Estimates suggest it will be a long recovery process taking to 2024 or even 2026 to reclaim lost ground.

Meantime, we continue to work towards achieving the aims of the City Vision 2050 for Edinburgh - to be welcoming, thriving, fair and pioneering and doing our best to support the twin priorities of the city council – eliminate poverty in the city by 2030 and achieve net zero carbon by 2030.

The business sector is keen to help deliver a better and more sustainable future for our city and residents. More than that - businesses will be essential in delivering the high skilled and higher paid jobs that will address the poverty challenge. It will be business that will also drive the innovation, investment and opportunities to see us reach net zero carbon in nine years’ time.

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The Scottish Parliamentary elections take place on Thursday with the question of independence continuing to dominate and divide at a time when the need for focus on our economy is paramount.

And at the UK level, the headlines have been dominated in recent days by allegations of sleaze and nepotism amid numerous investigations into breaches of the ministerial code. We have sadly become accustomed to these almost daily distractions and yet we should expect so much more from our political leaders.

In the face of the challenges, the need for a “good recovery” and collaborative leadership for Edinburgh is overwhelming.

We matter as a Scottish and UK city, contributing 30 per cent of Scotland’s GDP and 2.2 per cent of UK GDP.

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Edinburgh delivers 16 per cent of all Scottish jobs, and 83 per cent of net additional jobs in Scotland by 2027 will be generated by Edinburgh and Glasgow.

We need local and national government to work with businesses collaboratively to put the economy at the heart of policy. We need our political leaders to be engaged, to listen, and to act.

As Scotland’s capital and economic powerhouse, Edinburgh’s business acumen must be put to work for the benefit of all its citizens, in support of the long-term objectives that deliver recovery, growth and resilience but also in a sustainable and fair way.

Liz McAreavey is chief executive, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce