City Deals must not be too city-cen­tric

Devil in the de­tail as to what the king­dom will get

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Maybe it’s just the old cynic in me, but I’m still at a loss to see ex­actly what Fife is go­ing to get for its money as part of the Ed­in­burgh and South East Scot­land City Re­gion Deal.

There has been a lot of talk­ing in re­cent months that the devil will all be in the de­tail; that this City Deal is go­ing to drive in­vest­ment and ad­dress in­clu­sion across the whole Ed­in­burgh City Re­gion area.

But while the show-stop­ping head­line fig­ure of £1.1 bil­lion sur­round­ing the City Deal once more floated to the sur­face when the com­plex heads of terms agree­ment was signed more than a week ago, for­give me – as a Fifer – for tem­per­ing any ex­cite­ment.

I at­tended a busi­ness brief­ing on this very sub­ject when the deal was still miles off, only a pipe dream at that stage, but it was clear to me then that the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the deal would al­ways be Ed­in­burgh.

The clue is in the name, of course, and per­haps that was only to be ex­pected.

But when Fife is pre­pared to in­ject around £30 mil­lion of our money into the deal, I’d ex­pect to see at least £30m worth of ben­e­fit out the other side – and I’m yet to be wholly con­vinced that’s go­ing to hap­pen. I hope I’m proved wrong. Both gov­ern­ments are com­mit­ted to jointly in­vest­ing £600m over the next 15 years and the re­gional part­ners, in­clud­ing Fife, have com­mit­ted to adding up to £500m.

And the list of key com­mit­ments on pa­per is im­pres­sive: £300m for world lead­ing data in­no­va­tion cen­tres, £140m for a “cru­cially-needed” A720 city by­pass at the Sher­iffhall round­about and trans­port im­prove­ments across west Ed­in­burgh, £20m cap­i­tal fund­ing for a new world class con­cert hall in St An­drews Square, £25m re­gional skills pro­gramme to sup­port im­proved ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties for dis­ad­van­taged groups and £65m of new fund­ing for hous­ing to un­lock strate­gic de­vel­op­ment sites.

How­ever, we must hope the deal is not too Ed­in­burgh-cen­tric and can de­liver more than just knock-on ben­e­fits.

The im­por­tance of Ed­in­burgh can­not be un­der­lined.

As a world-class fes­ti­val city and a global des­ti­na­tion on many peo­ple’s bucket lists, it at­tracts more than four mil­lion vis­i­tors every year and adds more than £1.3 bil­lion to the econ­omy an­nu­ally.

But we have to make sure that the growth promised will be dis­trib­uted more equally across the en­tire Ed­in­burgh City Re­gion – and not just fo­cused at the top of the tree.

With Fife also in­volved in sim­i­lar talks over the Dundee City Re­gion, my fear is that cen­tral and mid-Fife in par­tic­u­lar could well be left be­hind.

The Ed­in­burgh and South East Scot­land City Deal must ben­e­fit Fife eco­nom­i­cally.

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