Throughout history, Scotland has been a centre for innovation, entrepreneurialism and business endeavour, its cities brimming with the ambition to prosper. Today is no different, despite the economic challenges of high inflation and weakened activity.
Scotland possesses strength and resilience that can give confidence to those looking to set up and grow their business in an established and stable destination: one where innovative ideas take root, are supported and passion thrives.
Resilience stems from close collaboration with the Scottish government as partners within the Scottish Cities Alliance (SCA). Made up of eight Scottish cities – Aberdeen, Dundee, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling – the SCA acts as a platform to attract investment and generate growth, in particular through the city region and growth deals.
Through a combined commitment of £3.1bn from the Scottish and UK governments, the deals provide significant support for economic development. This investment is further expected to leverage an additional £2.9bn from a range of other private and public sources, bringing up the total investment to £6bn for delivering long-term inclusive growth and rejuvenation. This is being achieved by the Scottish cities through the lens of culture, innovation, and connectivity.
Looking at culture, examples include Edinburgh’s purpose-designed £75m Dunard Centre, which will not only build on the city’s heritage to attract world-class performers, but via a wide-ranging education and community programme to engage with currently under-represented groups. In Inverness, the city castle is being redeveloped for the public as part of a £315m Inverness and Highland City Region Deal to provide a high-quality amenity for local people and attract international tourism, while in Perth a cultural transformation that will bring back the City Hall to life is under way, a building that is currently on the ‘Buildings at Risk Register’ and part of the city’s medieval heart.
When it comes to innovation, the BioHub in Aberdeen, backed with £20m of Scottish and UK government funding, will provide support and physical infrastructure to grow businesses in the life sciences sector, building on the city’s life sciences cluster while connecting research expertise to industry. In Edinburgh, the £101m Bayes Centre serves as a one-stop shop for technical data science and AI expertise since 2018, while in Dunfermline, the Fife Interchange North project has been given the go-ahead to build further business units to an already thriving business park. Work on boosting full fibre and 5G deployment is under way in Dundee, along with the creation of a multi-million-pound cyberQuarter, designed to establish the Tay Cities region as a centre of best practice in cybersecurity R&D and knowledge exchange.
Lastly, connectivity. In one case, the Avenues project in Glasgow will create a people-focused network of new, accessible and safe routes on 17 streets throughout the city centre. The £115m project will feature new public realm and smart infrastructure, as well as trees and rain gardens. Keeping with the accessibility theme, Stirling will soon benefit from two new walking, wheeling and cycling corridors amounting to an additional 6.5km of new infrastructure, delivered as part of an ambitious active travel project.
The scope and scale of opportunity in Scotland’s city regions is driving bright investment sentiment going into 2023. The best way to realise such opportunity is by working together – between cities, Scottish and UK governments, investors, developers and local partners – generating growth for the benefit of the whole of Scotland.
Councillor John Alexander is chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance and leader of Dundee City Council