COMMENT: City Deal possibilities hugely exciting

BUDGETS are always dramatic events for journalists and politicians, much less so for the rest of the country.

Thursday, 17th March 2016, 8:56 am
Updated Thursday, 17th March 2016, 8:58 am

The political anoraks among us crowd around television sets, if we are not in the House of Commons ourselves, hanging on the Chancellor’s every word, ready to analyse and pass comment. The rest of the country, meanwhile, waits far more patiently for a handy synopsis telling them what impact it will have on their daily lives.

For those who follow these events closely in Edinburgh, this year’s Budget was one of the most dramatic yet. The big question that we all wanted answered was simple, but its ramifications enormous. Would George Osborne mention Edinburgh’s City Deal – signalling that massive public investment was indeed being earmarked for the city region - or would he not?

All he had to do was mention “the E word” and we would know that it was all systems go. If he hadn’t mentioned the city’s name at all the consequences would have been great uncertainty and soul-searching. Had we missed out on potentially £1 billion in public investment and the chance to unlock billions more from private partners?

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In the event, there was relief and some low-key celebration. The City Deal is on – and it has the potential to be truly dramatic for Edinburgh and the rest of South East Scotland.

The reality of course is that the hard work starts here. The negotiations with the Treasury and the Scottish Government to secure the kind of investment that the city is hoping for will be tough. Then there is all the work attracting private investors to plough their money into projects that will improve life in the Capital and the surrounding areas.

And finally there is the small mattter of deciding where to invest this much needed investment. Spreading 4G mobile phone coverage across the region? Improving the road network in the traffic-clogged west of Edinburgh? Extending the trams or rail lines? The possibilities are hugely exciting and sure to prompt fierce debate.