Tayside will have to wait until next year before landing what could be a £1bn-plus boost from the long-awaited city deal.
Lord Duncan, the UK minister, said officials are turning their focus on the Tay Cities Deal after the Edinburgh version was completed last week – but estimated it will not be done and dusted until the start of 2018 at the earliest.
It provoked anger from Chris Law, the SNP MP for Dundee West, who said the delay is causing “uncertainty and worry” for the city.
A £1.8bn wishlist of projects has already been submitted by the Tay Cities team, which asks the UK and Scottish governments to invest a combined £826m over a decade. It is hoped the package could bring 15,000 jobs to the region.
Lord Duncan told The Courier: “The signing date will be next year. I would certainly hope early next year. That’s when we basically have the projects and the money brought together in perfect harmony so that we can start the roll-out.”
The Conservative minister warned that “ambitions start very high” and, in line with other city deal negotiations, the final sum handed over by the governments would be lower than requested once projects are judged and made “more focussed”.
“It’s still very early days, and I’m not trying to pre-judge the actual figure,” he said. “But I’m just saying it will be in the scale established by the (city deals) already delivered.”
Lord Duncan said he was “absolutely determined” that rural areas are not sidelined in the Tay Cities Deal.
Labour co-leader of Fife Council David Ross said the Edinburgh and South East Region Deal, which received £300m from both governments and includes Fife, was too city-centric and “deeply disappointing” for the kingdom.
Lord Duncan said the Edinburgh deal was driven at local level, adding “the question is what is it that Fife asked for, what is that Fife expected that it put forward the case for”.
Referring to the Tay deal, he said: “This is not a city deal for Dundee, or a city deal for Perth, this is a Tay Valley deal looking at development across what is actually one of the more rural parts of Scotland.
“As a Perthshire boy I am absolutely determined the money will be spent wisely and sensibly, encouraging the right sort of projects across that whole region…so we can deliver what is a meaningful spend that delivers against growth, creates jobs, create innovation and helps that region develop.”
City deals north of the border see the UK and Scottish governments combine to fund a series of economy-boosting projects, such as building innovation centres and transport improvements.
Mr Law said there “seems to be one set of criteria for a last minute cobbled-together deal to save the Tories skin and a different set for a Scottish city region deal”.
“The Tories were able to find £1bn to cut a deal with the DUP in a matter of days and yet they refuse to sign on the dotted line for a deal which we have been reliably informed is one of the best planned, detailed city deals ever to have been submitted.
“Our deal was sent months ago and I have asked several times for the promised commitment given by the previous Tory government.
“This unnecessary delay causes uncertainty and worry for all of us in Dundee who are working so hard to bring vital jobs and prosperity to the area.”