Future looking better after major change in the political dynamic - Donald Anderson

Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas SarwarSir Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar
Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar
The nations have spoken. Despite a low turnout election, the new Labour government has an emphatic majority with which to pursue change.

Already the political atmosphere has been transformed from frenetic and at times chaotic noise to one of calm and methodical consideration of issues. No rash promises and what looks like a deliberate (and smart) attempt to promise less and deliver more.

For Edinburgh and Scotland the political landscape has been transformed. In the city Labour has pulled off a remarkable success with solid majorities achieved by winning seats from the SNP. At a local level that will mean more and better resourced Labour campaigns in a city that I well remember Alistair Darling telling me long ago is a “Tory city”. Labour wins in Edinburgh are hard won and fragile, but the win this time is very significant.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Prime Minister made a visit to the city an early priority and (rightly) met with First Minister John Swinney. The tone was constructive and cooperative. Expect friction down the line, but the politics is no longer the mix we’ve had of megaphone diplomacy and street theatre. Politics just got more serious.

Labour wants to drive economic growth and as one of Scotland’s biggest opportunities for growth, the party will be keen to start quickly. The Scotland Office under Ian Murray is being beefed up and will have more resources. It remains to be seen how much of that comes to Edinburgh, but this new government will be keen to make a difference in both Edinburgh and Scotland.

That will undoubtedly mean more partnership working. The delivery of the Forth Green Freeport, perhaps the most significant economic development opportunity in a decade in the city, shows that even under a Conservative government it can be done. Expect more such innovation and investment, perhaps in trams.

The emphasis in Edinburgh will be on unleashing private investment rather than massive sums of new public money. In Scotland, Labour will be keen to carefully target resources, and as we’ve seen from recent news about Glasgow and Aberdeen, their cities face far more acute challenges. Expect more public investment to accompany the location of the new GB Energy in Aberdeen.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Edinburgh is the most successful city economy in the UK outside London. Labour will be keen to nurture and continue that success. That could mean some serious work to develop Scotland’s growth corridor along the central belt, which is comprised of Edinburgh and Glasgow city regions and all in-between. Investment there is central to Scotland’s future success and such an approach would be smart.

Housing is being prioritised, but that is a reserved matter. Nonetheless increased housebuilding south of the border will add pressure to solving issues, such as rent controls, which have stopped investment and pushed rents up to record levels. That “peer pressure” could focus minds on delivering more homes in Scotland. Let’s hope so.

So, major change in the political dynamic. A more serious tone to the political debate and targeted investment to help foster economic growth in Edinburgh and in Scotland. After the challenges of recent years, the future does look better. However, as Keir Starmer would probably admit, nothing will be easy and there is a lot of work needed to restore faith in politics and politicians.

Donald Anderson is a director of Playfair Scotland