A LONG-TERM vision to make Edinburgh the most connected, inclusive, creative and entrepreneurial city region in Europe has been launched at a gathering of business leaders.
Backers of the proposed city region deal say the Capital is already the most prosperous UK city outside London and it now needs to set its sights on competing with the top city regions in Europe, such as Munich and Barcelona.
The plan is to secure £1 billion of UK and Scottish Government funding and then attract £3.2bn private sector cash to boost the economy by investing in the area’s unique strengths and tackling inequality.
Details of specific projects have not yet been revealed, but it is understood new road and rail links to Edinburgh Airport, an extended Borders Railway and a big increase in house-building are among schemes being drawn up.
The deal would also ensure people have the right skills for a modern economy, including new tech industries.
The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal brings together Edinburgh, Midlothian, East Lothian, West Lothian, Fife and Borders. The population of the area is predicted to rise by 200,000 over the next 20 years.
The vision for a city region deal was launched yesterday at a business breakfast at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. More than 140 business people from across the region attended the event hosted by the councils and the Edinburgh Business Forum.
The region is home to 1.3 million people – a quarter of Scotland’s population – and makes up 30 per cent of the country’s economy.
City region deals already exist elsewhere – Glasgow’s was signed within days of last year’s independence referendum and talks are under way on one for Aberdeen. South of the border, Greater Manchester has been given extensive new powers by the UK government as part of its Northern Powerhouse initiative.
Edinburgh City Council leader Andrew Burns said despite the Capital’s status and achievements, future success could not be taken for granted. It needed the city region deal. He urged the business community to help secure the deal by being vocal in their support.
And new city council chief executive Andrew Kerr told the business breakfast that the city region deal would also focus on tackling inequality. Some 21 per cent of children in the area live in poverty and 24 per cent of the population suffer fuel poverty.
Mr Kerr said reducing inequality could lead to increased happiness and cited Iceland where the rich-poor gap is much smaller than in this country and people are happier.
Hugh Rutherford, chair of the Edinburgh Business Forum, said there was strong business support. “Edinburgh needs its city region and its city region needs Edinburgh – the future of the South east of Scotland and Scotland as a whole depends on a city region-wide deal.”