Delayed Edinburgh City Deal could be agreed ‘imminently’

The investment package was said to be waiting for Philip Hammond's signature. Picture: Getty Images
The investment package was said to be waiting for Philip Hammond's signature. Picture: Getty Images
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COUNCIL chiefs hope to give their endorsement to Edinburgh’s long-awaited City Deal on Wednesday afternoon.

The much-delayed £1 billion-plus investment package was on Tuesday said to be sitting on Chancellor Philip Hammond’s desk, awaiting his signature.

And as time ticked by, sources at the City Chambers said they feared it was looking less and less likely the deal would be signed this week.

But late in the day the mood changed and the crucial document, setting out the full terms of the deal, was due to be sent to city council chief executive Andrew Kerr on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning so he and senior officials could go through it with a fine-tooth comb.

Provided they can complete their task by 1pm, the leaders of the council’s political groups will meet on Wednesday afternoon and give the agreement their approval.

The other six councils involved in the deal – East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian, Fife and Borders – were making their own arrangements to approve it too.

And a ceremony to unveil the deal, attended by ministers from the UK and Scottish governments and leaders of the councils, has already been scheduled for Thursday.

The deal, to be funded jointly by the UK and Scottish governments, will provide extra funds for new projects in the priority areas of housing, innovation, culture and tourism and infrastructure.

Talks began two years ago and a deal had been due to be signed at the end of March, but was delayed because of the local elections, then the general election. Final approval from the UK government was the last stumbling block in the way of the much-delayed deal.

Unless the deal could be agreed by Thursday, when Westminster goes into recess, it was seen as unlikely to be approved until September – and there were fears it might then never happen at all.

Thirty other UK cities already have city deals, including Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. But since the general election in June, the UK government is said to have lost enthusiasm for city deals, meaning Edinburgh’s could well be the last. Last week the Scottish Government accused UK ministers of dragging their feet.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown complained of a “lack of engagement” and warned further delay could cost the Scottish economy millions of pounds of investment. The UK government insisted it remained committed to the Capital’s city deal.

But sources claimed the Scottish Government was putting in around £350m while the UK contribution could be as low as £200m.

It is still not clear exactly what will be included in the package, though a new concert hall behind the former RBS headquarters in St Andrew Square does feature and the extension of the tramline down Leith Walk to Newhaven is not part of the deal.

Council leader Adam McVey said: “I’m extremely hopeful of agreement on the city deal being achieved imminently.

“Many have put a lot of hopes and aspirations in the region’s deal and I’m confident that all partners will now work quickly to secure the deal in the best interests of Edinburgh and the region.”