£1bn Edinburgh City Deal finally agreed

EDINBURGH'S long-awaited £1 billion City Deal was today hailed as making a 'real difference' to people's lives.

Thursday, 20th July 2017, 5:33 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 12:16 pm
The Capital is set to benefit in many different areas. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

The investment package – which also covers the other Lothian authorities, Fife and Borders – will finally be unveiled this afternoon after a last-minute round of meetings averted fears the deal could fall through.

However, there are claims the package falls short of what had been expected.

The deal will include five new innovation hubs – including cutting-edge research in space, health sciences, agri-tech and food and drink – linked to Heriot-Watt, Queen Margaret and Edinburgh universities, the Roslin Institute and the UK’s National Supercomputer Centre at Easter Bush.

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There will be a £50 million development fund to accelerate private housebuilding in areas like the Granton waterfront and £15m to set up a new Edinburgh homes company, which will lever in up to £250m borrowing to expand housebuilding in the Capital.

The deal also includes the 1000-seater concert hall, a permanent home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, to be built behind the former RBS headquarters in St Andrew Square.

It will also help fund the new Sheriffhall roundabout on the City Bypass.

There will be £20m for roads in West Edinburgh to help deal with the congestion issues around large new housing developments.

And another £25m will go to help boost employability and reduce skills shortages across the region.

But there is no new power to introduce a tourist tax, as had been hoped.

The UK and Scottish governments are each contributing £300m with around £200m coming from the universities and other money from the councils involved.

Edinburgh’s is the fourth city deal to be agreed in Scotland after Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness.

Scottish Government Economy Secretary Keith Brown said the deal was expected to deliver 21,000 new jobs for the area.

He said: “The Scottish Government has been fully committed to this deal and I am very pleased that we have been able to get to the stage of achieving such an ambitious deal for the region.

“Edinburgh and its city region is an area of huge importance to the Scottish economy. It contains over a quarter of Scotland’s population and contributes £33bn to the Scottish and UK economies.

“Taken together these projects will help the region continue to thrive and grow, fulfilling our ambitions for the region to be one of the fairest and most inclusive areas in the country.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the deal would boost the economy of Edinburgh and the South-East Scotland for decades to come.

He said: “The Edinburgh deal will focus on the Capital’s strengths of new technology, innovation and culture.

“It will make a real difference to the lives of people in the region, creating jobs and prosperity and driving investment.”

And his deputy, Ian Duncan, said: “It’s a s*** ton of cash coming up to Scotland. Everyone should be dancing in the street about this.

“I hope it begins to deliver, and I hope people see it for what it is, which is money to do good.

“My home is in Edinburgh so I’m pleased to see that Edinburgh is going to get a deal that allows it to develop in different ways. As a scientist, some of the stuff that’s going to be done through the universities is very exciting.”

Council leader Adam McVey said: “I’m delighted we’ve secured an ambitious city deal which will deliver significant investment in the region and strengthen our economy.

“It will form an important part of our drive to increase innovation, improve infrastructure, deliver world-class culture venues, boost housing and implement a skills programme that will improve career opportunities for everyone in our communities.

“The collaborative working with partners including the Scottish Government and universities has made sure our deal works in the best interests of Scotland and the Capital. This process has been a long one and has taken a great deal of effort but I’m pleased that the first major achievement of the new council is to secure this 
agreement.”

The Greens said the deal was “a long way short of what it could have been”.

Green councillor Melanie Main said: “Of course £600m is an awful lot of money, so any additional investment has to be welcome.

“However, the truth is that the offer is less than what was expected and what is missing is as important as what is 
included.

“On transport, the priority should be dramatic improvements to public transport, walking and cycling; instead the centrepiece is the Sheriffhall roundabout.

“On housing, the offer, as it stands, is way short of what is needed for the region and a much bolder approach to land supply has been ducked.

“Also missing is any commitment to regional energy planning and both UK and Scottish governments have resisted calls to give councils powers to raise their own funds, through, for example, a visitor levy.

“It’s been said that this City Deal will be the final one of its kind and it certainly bears all the hallmarks of having lost sight of the potential of City Deals to shape the cleaner, greener economy of the future.”