City Deals must not be too city-centric
Devil in the detail as to what the kingdom will get
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.