City Region secures £1.1bn deal from UK and Scottish Governments

Friday July 21st 2017

Sheriffhall Roundabout from old A68

A £1.1bn Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which will help drive investment and economic growth across the area, has been announced by the UK and Scottish governments.

The city region deal is a partnership between Midlothian, City of Edinburgh, Fife, East Lothian, West Lothian and Scottish Borders Councils, in collaboration with the university and business sectors. A joint announcement by the UK and Scottish governments commits both to jointly investing £600m in the initiative over the next 15 years.

Regional partners have also committed to adding up to £500m, representing an overall deal worth £1.1bn. The investment is expected to generate a £5bn boost for the area’s economy over the same period.

Potential benefits for Midlothian include:

– £300m for world leading data innovation centres across the region, a significant part being at Easter Bush in Midlothian
– Funding towards the construction of the A701 relief road and A702 spur road
– A £25m regional skills programme to support improved training and career opportunities, with an emphasis on the needs of disadvantaged groups. This will also include funding for specialist centres of excellence in new Midlothian secondary schools
– £120m to support improvements to the A720 city bypass, which includes a major scheme for the Sheriffhall Roundabout
– £65m of new funding for housing across the region to unlock strategic development sites and to help meet the need for more new affordable housing

“We welcome this additional investment in Midlothian, albeit that it falls far short of the £1bn originally expected in government funding,” said Midlothian Council Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan.

“That said, the city region deal builds on our area’s many strengths, particularly in research, technology and innovation. It will also act as a catalyst in accelerating economic growth by encouraging further investment and boosting the economy of Midlothian and the wider area.

“The funding for improved infrastructure, jobs, skills and training opportunities will be widely welcomed, but I am disappointed at the lack of clarity in relation to key elements of the deal, including the proposals for the city bypass and Sheriffhall. I had also expected much more ambitious proposals in relation to affordable housing and the council will be seeking greater clarity on this aspect.”

At a signing ceremony held in Edinburgh on Thursday (July 20) the partners agreed a key document which sets out the basis for progressing the city region deal.

Among those attending were First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Damian Green and Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown. Midlothian Council was represented by the Council Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan, and the Chief Executive, Kenneth Lawrie.

Gordon Henderson, Senior Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

“Two years of hard work by a great many local government staff and politicians, past and present, has gone into getting this deal signed – congratulations to them all.

“It is absolutely vital that business owners in Peebles, Bathgate, Glenrothes and Dunbar feel the benefit of the deal’s huge spending power as much as those in central Edinburgh to ensure the regional economy as a whole benefits. A small business champion with a voice at the decision making table will go a long way to ensuring local business are benefitting from this additional spending, they already contribute £15.4bn to the city region’s economy so are vitally important.

“The Edinburgh city by-pass is a national traffic congestion blackspot affecting businesses and residents from across the region so, coupled with the already planned upgrade to the Sheriffhall junction, additional improvements are very welcome and I look forward to seeing what is planned.”

Green councillors in Edinburgh have described the City Region Deal as a long way short of what it could have been.

Green councillor Melanie Main said:

“Of course £600m is an awful lot of money, so any additional investment has to be welcome. However, the truth is that the offer is less than what was expected and what is missing is as important as what is included.

“On transport, the priority should be dramatic improvements to public transport, walking and cycling; instead the centrepiece is the Sheriffhall roundabout.

“On housing, the offer, as it stands, is way short of what is needed for the region and a much bolder approach to land supply has been ducked.

“Also missing is any commitment to regional energy planning and both UK and Scottish Governments have resisted calls to give councils powers to raise their own funds, through, for example, a visitor levy.

“It’s been said that this City Deal will be the final one of its kind. It certainly feels that way. The task now is to make sure that this weaker deal can be fully focused on building the cleaner, greener economy which is the city region’s only future.”

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