More that connects than divides our two capitals - ​Liz McAreavey

Liz McAreavey, CEO at Edinburgh Chamber of CommerceLiz McAreavey, CEO at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
Liz McAreavey, CEO at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
I can’t resist a quote and Henry Ford comes to mind following a recent dinner between Edinburgh business leaders and the City of London Corporation: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

It is a fact, that collaboration creates greater momentum, and growth is never mere chance, but the result of forces working together. This can only be good for Edinburgh as we forge closer links, alongside friends at Scottish Financial Enterprise, with the financial might of arguably the world’s largest financial centre – the famous Square Mile of London.

Our two Capital cities believe that working more closely together in areas of common strength will help maximise the impact that our key sectors can have on economic growth, driving more jobs and opportunities and unleashing our collective power through green finance to deliver our Net Zero ambitions. If through dialogue and engagement we can find the best way to collaborate, we will achieve that.

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There is more that connects us than divides us. Both cities agree that financial and professional services and arts and culture are key sectors within our respective communities, and that we both have large talent pools to draw upon in terms of recruitment and participation. These are strengths for both of our cities. Culture is also a significant sector for both – Edinburgh is the world’s leading Festival City and interestingly The City of London Corporation is the fourth largest funder of culture and heritage in the UK, as they aspire to make the City of London a seven-day destination.

Both cities also have issues around inequalities particularly financial inequality. One million people in the UK don’t have a bank account, and 15 million people have savings of less than £100. We know this is an issue at the heart of Scottish Financial Enterprise’s future strategy and why Edinburgh is home to the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence. By looking at how we can pool resources to tackle these issues, we can further refine the role that businesses might play in helping tackle the issue of poverty and inequality, and how to attract more diverse talented people into the financial sector.

Working more closely with the world-leading financial centre of the City is a real opportunity for Edinburgh, which as Europe’s sixth largest financial centre is no small player itself. Financial services provide nearly 10 per cent of jobs in Edinburgh and 25 per cent of its GVA, whilst 5 per cent of jobs come from the culture sector, with the city’s 11 festivals contributing £400 million to the city’s economy in 2022. That shows the scale of the value these two sectors bring. We need to work with our financial services and our culture sector to see how we can further develop a more meaningful and supportive environment in which both benefit and grow.

It was a heartening and positive exchange with the City of London Corporation with a genuine willingness from both cities to explore areas of collaboration to deliver tangible outcomes. It is the start of a new friendship and much still to be done to take forward the partnership, but areas to be explored further are how working together might help The City of London’s £10 billion fund – built up over centuries to promote the city and financial and business services across the country – have a positive impact in Edinburgh. We also need to make better use of our pension funds – there is £4.5 trillion in defined contribution pensions in the UK – with most of that enormous sum sat in low interest rate gilts, with only 0.5 per cent invested in unlisted equities.

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The City of London Corporation and their London Chamber partners have recently published “A Vision for Economic Growth – A roadmap to prosperity” which contains nine “big move” strategies to enhance and build on the success of a sector that contributes £100bn to our tax coffers and supports 2.5m jobs. Edinburgh Chamber has started a process to bring our communities together to examine how the power of Edinburgh’s businesses might be better harnessed to deliver the sustainable, successful well-being economy that is our city and national ambition. Watch this space.

Liz McAreavey is Chief Executive, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce