The first minister has defended investing £40 million in a third Perth bridge over the Tay at the expense of more substantial support for the former Michelin tyre plant in Dundee.
Nicola Sturgeon visited Perth College UHI yesterday to announce £50m additional Tay Cities Region funding, taking the Scottish Government contribution from £150m to £200m.
She announced £40m for the Cross Tay Link Road (CTLR) and £10m for a manufacturing investment programme, which will include support for the former Michelin factory in Dundee.
Politicians in Perth hailed “a great day” for the city while Dundee representatives reacted with dismay to the announcement.
Jenny Marra, Labour MSP, said Dundee had been “short-changed” as it had been expecting the majority of the £50m to deal with the fallout of the Michelin plant closure.
“This has turned into part of the battle for votes between the SNP and the Conservatives,” she said.
But sources close to the negotiations said Perth politicians had been “spitting feathers” when the CTLR was omitted at the last minute from the main Tay Cities Region Deal announcement made in November.
Arguments over the allocation of the latest £50m are said to have raged right up until directly before the FM’s announcement.
The CTLR is seen as essential for supporting economic growth in the city, though critics claim it will only move traffic congestion to areas outside of the city centre.
In her first major announcement of the year, Ms Sturgeon told an audience of councillors, officials, local business leaders and media that the Scottish Government had always intended to invest an additional £50m in the Tay Cities Region.
“We have taken a bit of time to work out what the best use of that money will be,” she said.
“So the Cross Tay Link Road,
and support for manufacturing companies, are in our view a really important use of that money to support wider regional economic development in Tayside.”
The CTLR investment would “unlock housing and development, reduce congestion, make it easier for businesses to trade and support new housing,” she added.
Business quango Scottish Enterprise will allocate the new £10m manufacturing cash, which will support businesses in Tayside, Angus and north Fife.
The first minister said she had “no doubt” the Michelin plant in Dundee would be a key player in those discussions.
“The future of the Michelin site –which Michelin is committed to being a part of as well – is a key focus of our ambitions for manufacturing in Tayside, so I have got no doubt it will feature in the discussions as they move forward,” she said.
Murdo Fraser, Conservative MSP, said the earlier omission of the CTLR funding had caused “real concerns” in Perth.
“The Cross Tay Link Road is a vital project for the economic development of Perth and eastern Perthshire. Without support from the Scottish Government it was unlikely that it could proceed, and today’s announcement should ensure that it now happens,” he said.
“When the Tay Cities Deal funding was announced last year there were
real concerns that the expected CTLR funding was not part of that package.”