Edinburgh economy strategy '˜fails to tackle Brexit'

A FIVE-YEAR economic strategy drawn up by Edinburgh's SNP-Labour coalition is being challenged because it fails to tackle the likely impact of Brexit.

Thursday, 18th January 2018, 6:00 am
Group Leaders Adam McVey of the SNP, left, and Labour's Cammy Day

Senior Liberal Democrat councillor Kevin Lang will call for a delay in adopting the strategy when it is considered today in order to allow a more thorough analysis of how the Capital’s economy could be affected by the UK leaving the EU in 2019.

Cllr Lang said he was astonished that Brexit was only mentioned a handful of times in the 14,000-word document.

He said: “Our withdrawal from the EU is by far the biggest economic risk that faces this city – and perhaps this more than other parts of the UK because of the importance of tourism and financial services – and here we have a five-year strategy which makes only passing references to Brexit. That’s not good enough.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“We need substantially more information on the potential impact on our economy and what steps could be taken by the council to try to mitigate against it.”

He also called for more rigorous targets to be set for the objectives laid out in the strategy on issues like boosting jobs and reducing child poverty.

“Of course we are in favour of jobs growth, but if we implement the strategy what are we aiming for?

“And of course we want to tackle child poverty, but how much are we going to reduce it by and by what date?

“We need some way of measuring how effectively we are delivering on these things.

“The administration seems to be running scared of having its performance properly measured.”

Cllr Lang said in the foreword to the document, economy convener Gavin Barrie had said he hoped the strategy would command support across the council.

“Despite the fact we have five parties which often come at things from different angles, I think that is possible – but he is not going to get that unless he listens to the other groups and takes some time to ensure we get this vitally important document right.”

Unveiling the strategy last week, Cllr Barrie said it represented an important shift in the focus of the council’s work to help Edinburgh’s economy to grow, with a new emphasis on tackling inequality as well as creating jobs.

He said the city’s economy was going from strength to strength and had shown great resilience during tough economic times.

“The time has come, however, to take a good look at why there are still people living in Edinburgh who are not sharing in this prosperity.

“We need to grow our economy so that it is fair in terms of wages, opportunity, access to housing, education and good careers.”

The document sets out “Ten steps for good growth” which include establishing Edinburgh as the data capital of Europe; a step change in green and socially responsible business; reforming education and skills; transforming the Waterfront into one of the city’s landmarks; developing West Edinburgh as a strategic growth area; and building affordable, quality housing across the Capital.