Fife will reap enormous rewards from the much-anticipated multi-billion- pound Edinburgh City Region Deal, it has been claimed.
Edinburgh City Council chief executive Andrew Kerr revealed a deal to inject around £2 billion of public money into the regional economy could be confirmed as early as November, amid suggestions a further £5bn of private-sector cash could be levered in.
While admitting the City Deal would not act as a “silver bullet” to cure the area’s ills, Mr Kerr insisted all partners in the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal – which includes Fife, East Lothian, West Lothian, Midlothian and Scottish Borders councils – will benefit from the once-in-a-generation initiative to kick-start huge infrastructure projects and boost culture, education, employment and tourism.
The devil will be in the detail, which has so far been lacking.
However, Mr Kerr isn’t lacking in ambition when promoting Edinburgh as the deal’s main focus.
“One of the things we’re going to do over the autumn is we’re going to start a process where this city has a conversation about what it wants to be in 2050 so that we can imagine a city that has clean transport, that is carbon-free, that has more beautiful places in it, that is a global leader in technology, data and knowledge, that has a highly-skilled young workforce with jobs in all salary categories, that is one of the best places for tourism in the world,” he said.
“If you build the City Deal on that vision – I’m not saying it is the vision, we need to have a conversation – then you have the chance of doing something that starts to make sense to everyone.
“Our City Deal is starting to emerge: it’s a City Deal of six local authorities, five universities, three parts of Government. What could possibly go wrong?
“But it’s a starting point for the future of Edinburgh. It’s a starting point for all of our partners, whether business or local authority, to allow us to move forward, and it requires a buy-in from everyone to make that happen.
“We can make Edinburgh the best mid-sized city maybe in the world if we really show enough ambition, and the City Deal is the right path for this.
“We need local authorities and businesses and the community to work together to make it a reality so we can make best use of the fantastic opportunity £2bn would provide.
“This is not a silver bullet, this is not something that is going to solve all of our problems.
“We need to take the opportunity with both hands and try to close the gap between the rich and the poor.
“But Edinburgh is an easy case to make in terms of a City Deal because we’re not making the case saying ‘we need a City Deal because we are the poorest part of the country’; we’re making the case of Edinburgh being the only growing part of the Scottish economy – the capital city of the Scottish economy, already the most competitive city outside London.”
Nothing has been confirmed yet, but Edinburgh has already been talking about transport infrastructure to the west and east, innovation hubs around the city, housing investment and subsidence to its cultural offering.
There had been fears Brexit might scupper the City Deal, but Mr Kerr said the move away from the EU might only affect timescales involved.
An announcement could come by the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, or more likely the Budget next year, although talks over what form the City Deal’s governance arrangements will take are ongoing.
A form of ‘City Region cabinet’ has been in place, involving council representatives and those from the likes of the university and tourism sectors, but Mr Kerr concluded: “We’ll need to wait and see what the constituent parts of any City Deal are before we can make that decision.”