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Tay Cities Deal: ‘Whole process has been farcical’

The River Tay as it flows through Perth.
The River Tay as it flows through Perth.

The final sign-off of the long-awaited Tay Cities Deal should have concluded at the end of October, both the Scottish and UK Governments have admitted.

Scottish Government transport secretary Michael Matheson and the UK under secretary of state for Scotland Iain Stewart were questioned by MSPs on Wednesday morning, where the complexities of organising and finalising city and regional deals was discussed.

Both Mr Stewart and Mr Matheson agreed the partnership between Holyrood and Westminster in regard to the deal provision process was strong and that issues in delay were a result of business cases.

A tour visits the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie.

It has been just short of two years since the initial head of terms on the Tay Cities Deal were agreed, with one source close to a major project expecting funding from the arrangement calling the entire process “farcical”.

Giving a timeline on how deals for Scottish regions were progressing, Mr Stewart noted the Tay Cities agreement should have been finalised “last week”.

Moray’s deal will not be signed until at least the summer period, the under secretary added, and delays to the Highland and Inverness region deal had come about through a legal challenge to the R100 broadband roll-out.

Too little, too late

But a source close to one of the major projects set to receive funding from the Tay Cities arrangement said the arrangement had taken so long most of the proposals put forward would be obsolete.

They added: “The only things, at this rate, which will be able to continue are projects which have already started.

“The deal was supposed to be finalised last Friday (October 30) but it was delayed once again.

“This might be because of Dundee’s going in to tier three lockdown or because Westminster is stickling over the detail.

“Overall, this whole process has been farcical.

“Some of the projects are more than five years old, a lot of funding proposals can be redrawn, but the process has been crazy.”

Promise deals will be delivered

Partners of the Tay Cities Deal want the UK Government to release the funds within a 10-year period, which is not what was originally agreed, according to Westminster — which originally agreed to providing money over a 15-year period.

Under secretary Iain Stewart said: “The next milestones coming up for deals are on November 19, in Ayrshire. That will hopefully be followed swiftly by Tay Cities. Full deal for Moray maybe next summer.

“A lot of the issues are with the business cases. Within the Tay Cities Deal, we have been able to progress and accelerate the Eden Campus project, near St Andrews, because that business case was well developed it was approved by both UK and Scottish Governments.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Iain Stewart signing the Moray Growth Deal Heads of Terms agreement.

“It is now in a place where it can draw down funds and get going. We are in a good timeline generally, but where there are opportunities to accelerate we take them and where things are held up we try quickly to resolve them.”

“On the Tay Cities, we are ready to go. What we are trying to accommodate is the request to have the UK Government’s funding given over a shorter time period.

“I am currently in negotiations with the Treasury to see if we can get that agreed.

“If that is not going to be possible, then we are ready to sign on the original terms and revisit the reprofiling issue subsequently.

“This is a short delay, of literally a few weeks, to see if we can get that compression of timelines agreed first.

“The delays have been for a good reason, not a problematic one.”

It is hoped the multimillion-pound Tay Cities Deal will create thousands of jobs for Dundee, Angus, Perth and Kinross and North Fife.

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