Businesses from across Edinburgh and the South East of Scotland have today been urged to back a £1bn bid to accelerate growth across the region.
Over 100 business leaders gathered for a breakfast briefing at the EICC to hear more about initial proposals for a City Deal that would see greater autonomy and decision making powers, increased opportunities for learning and skills development and investment in infrastructure.
The bid partners – East Lothian, City of Edinburgh, Fife, Midlothian, Scottish Borders and West Lothian Councils – believe the deal will accelerate growth, allowing the region to compete on an increasingly competitive international stage, deliver sustained economic growth and tackle deprivation and inequality.
The bid is being developed for submission to the Westminster and Scottish governments in early September. The ambition is to secure £1bn of funding and it is estimated that an additional £3.2bn worth of private sector investment could be leveraged.
Speaking on behalf of the six local authorities, City of Edinburgh Council Leader, Andrew Burns, said: “We are asking businesses to pledge their support for the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal to help accelerate the growth of the region, Scotland and the UK.
“Together, across the region, we are responsible for over 30% of the Scottish economy and are a key driver of the UK. Edinburgh is the most prosperous city in the UK outside London and the most productive in Scotland.
“As a result of this, people may question the need for a City Deal here, but I would urge them to look below the surface and not to take our success for granted. We are also a divided region, with significant numbers missing out on the success of the many.
“In the next 20 years, there will be 200,000 more people living here, placing yet more strain on our infrastructure, housing stock and community services. This isn’t only about accelerating growth; it’s about putting in place the fundamentals to cope with it in a sustainable and equitable way.”
Ernst & Young is supporting the partners in developing the Deal and Mark Gregory, Chief Economist, set out his long term vision for the region’s economy at this morning’s event.
He said: "This is a game changing bid with the UK and Scotland governments. It's vital in continuing to make the region, and Scotland as a whole, an attractive place to live, work, do business and invest in. It's about strengthening infrastructure, connectivity, innovation, equality, culture and skills to remain competitive on both a local and global stage.
"The ambition, vision and collaboration of the local authority partners involved to bring fairer growth, greater productivity and more opportunity to people living in this diverse region is inspiring."
Hugh Rutherford, Chair of the Edinburgh Business Forum, said: “The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region deal is an important initiative that will help develop the region’s economy while tackling poverty and inequality. There is clearly a lot of business support behind this bid as seen by the discussions that took place today.
“Edinburgh needs its City region and its City region needs Edinburgh – the future of the South east of Scotland and Scotland as a whole depends on a city region wide deal.”
Assuming a positive response from ministers, detailed work on prioritising potential investment would continue in partnership with representatives from both governments.