Holyrood committee outlines ‘significant issues’ with City Region Deals

The £315 million Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal was formally signed last January

The multi-billion pound City Region Deals across Scotland are suffering from “confused and cluttered” priorities between the Scottish and UK governments and could see rural and remote areas lose out on investment, according to a report by MSPs.

City Region Deals have seen a £3.3 billion investment in Scotland so far as a result of a partnership between the governments, local authorities and other partners to boost jobs and grow regional economies.

Deals have been agreed for Glasgow (with £1.13bn of public investment), Edinburgh (£1.1bn), Aberdeen (£826 million) and Inverness (£315m), and their surrounding regions. Two further deals for the cities of Stirling and Dundee, plus the wider areas in the central region and in Tayside, are being discussed.

While recognising that these deals are in their infancy, the Deal or No Deal report, published today by the local government and communities committee, has outlines a number of concerns on the economic growth projects which MSPs say must be addressed.

Some of the key findings include…

  • Local communities and businesses should be involved in City Region Deals in a meaningful way so they can help shape projects, and should not just be “informed after decisions have been made”.
  • There are “confused and cluttered” priorities between the UK Government, Scottish Government and local authorities. For example, investments made by the UK Government focus on purely economic and bottom-line benefits whereas the focus for the Scottish Government is inclusive growth.
  • Rural and remote areas – and towns not covered by City Region Deals – must not “miss out or lose out” against bigger cities. Other initiatives, such as the Ayrshire Growth Deal and the Borderlands Initiative, should not be seen as the poor cousin of City Region Deals.
  • The Glasgow City Region Deal is the most established Deal in Scotland and is currently under review. We recommend that other Deals learn from the Glasgow experience, so they don’t find themselves in the same situation in years to come.
  • Bob Doris MSP

    Local government and communities committee convener, Bob Doris MSP, said: “We welcome the significant investment of £3.3bn to create new jobs and build exciting and thriving areas around our major cities – some of which are in the most impoverished and deprived areas of Scotland.

    “But it’s clear from the evidence we have heard and our committee visits that there are significant issues with City Region Deals that must be addressed.

    “That’s why we strongly recommend that all governments – national and local – work together and agree to a single focus, as a key priority should be maximising the benefits for local communities.”

    Bob Doris MSP added: “While it’s still very early days in the City Region Deals lifespan, it’s not clear how other towns and the more rural and remote areas of Scotland will benefit from these deals.

    “There is also a risk that some parts of Scotland could miss out or lose out on the benefits that these projects may bring, and that other initiatives are treated as the poor cousin in comparison.

    “In order for City Region Deals to be a success right across Scotland, we need clarity on when this initiative will be extended to all. As these deals are in the early years of a 10-20 year programme of investment, our committee will be keeping a close eye to check whether these improvements have been made and whether further action is required.”

    Overall 83% of Scotland’s population live in the areas that are covered by existing or planned City Region Deals.

    Some of the projects planned within these Deals include:

    • A new £144m direct link between Glasgow Central Station and Glasgow Airport
    • £44m on a new country park, new business infrastructure and development, an enhanced road network and a new rail station in East Renfrewshire
    • £354m on a new Oil and Gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen
    • £38m on a new Bio-Therapeutic Hub for Innovation as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal
    • £107m for the East Link and Longman Interchange in Inverness
    • Plans for £300m for world-leading data innovation centres as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal
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