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STEVE FINAN: Does John Alexander’s bold announcement mean Dundee’s fortunes are finally changing?

"Unless he possesses proof of his “being pro-active” bearing fruit, there is too big a risk of that quote coming back to haunt him."

Would John Alexander make such a public call if he wasn't confident of success? Image: DC Thomson
Would John Alexander make such a public call if he wasn't confident of success? Image: DC Thomson

I am always intrigued by anyone saying “this is what I’m going to achieve”.

Sometimes it’s a sign of confidence, sometimes they’ve mistaken fantasy for reality and sometimes there is insider knowledge of things yet to happen.

John Alexander’s talk of wanting to achieve a multi-million-pound investment in Dundee strikes me as a case of the latter.

If he has had meetings with Scottish Government minister Neil Gray and secretary of state Alister Jack, they must have given him something to take home.

If they said “you’re getting nowt”, I can’t imagine John would have gone public with a call for investment he knew wasn’t coming.

If he recruited university and chamber of commerce leaders to stand alongside him, he must have been able to reassure them he’d had a few fiscal nods.

Dundee leaders outlined their plans last week. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

He also went on record to state: “No one can say we aren’t being pro-active”.

Unless he possesses proof of his “being pro-active” bearing fruit, there is too big a risk of that quote coming back to haunt him.

The clumsy publicity charade (honestly, they must think our heads zip up the back) of “what we’re hoping to achieve” was really nailed on confirmation Dundee is about to get investment from one or both governments. That’s my take.

Dundee ‘ignored too long’

And that is a good thing.

I unreservedly congratulate John for getting something substantial for Dundee.

Dundee has been ignored too long by the governments at Holyrood and Westminster.

It is well past time both did something about it – I hope it is as valuable as the £80 million that would have come with investment zone status.

John’s five bullet-point “asks” mentioned in his announcement will be, it is safe to assume, what the money will be spent on. He wouldn’t have listed them otherwise.

It is really only three bullet points.

Two are slightly differently worded announcements of housing developments, another two are differently worded promises to regenerate vacant shops and buildings. The other is “support” for a skills and employability hub.

The housing will make money for the city and whoever the developers are.

That’s why housing developers exist. This bullet point, with a little help from the planning committee, will look after itself.

The two (really one) most important point concerns the promise to “transform” city centre shops and buildings.

Re-invigorating the city centre is a bold aim.

Every town in Britain seeks ways to bring footfall back to traditional centres in the face of fierce competition from retail parks and online shopping.

It’s a difficult nut to crack, I’m not aware of many big successes.

It will need subsidiary action (I’d say a full re-think) on transport links, some aspects rely on cooperation of the Mike Ashley-owned Overgate Centre and other businesses currently paying full rates, and it will have to boost the night-time economy as well as shops.

There will be criticism for spending on the centre when outlying areas also need investment.

It is a gamble. I hope the dice run kindly for you John, I genuinely do.

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