Given the political uncertainty and rising costs, there is a concern that the UK is becoming less attractive to foreign investors. However, Scotland is leading the rebound in inward investment activity.
A 2022 report by Ernst & Young showed Scotland secured a 14% increase in foreign direct investment (FDI), outstripping the rest of the UK, and indeed Europe, by a considerable margin. Moreover, latest analysis from Knight Frank shows that £1.66bn worth of deals were concluded in Scotland last year, the highest figure since 2019, with overseas investment making up over half of the investment volumes.
Investors see Scotland as a stable, progressive environment packed full of talented workers, where they can maximise their investment over the long term. Scotland’s success at attracting FDI is a testament to its forward-looking achievements in innovative sectors ranging from life sciences to the digital realm, and more.
Key to Scotland’s investor attractiveness is its cities, represented by the Scottish Cities Alliance (SCA), comprising Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling, and the latest addition, Dunfermline.
Cities working as a group provide a one-stop shop for investment decisions, powered by all the leaders and chief executives of the member councils being actively involved in discussions. This one-stop shop approach shortens the decision-making process, allowing cities to get to the heart of what potential investors are looking for and what our cities can provide.
There are numerous examples of the combination of city-led regeneration and investor expertise across our eight member cities, from Stirling’s Kildean Business Park, a high-quality, ecologically sensitive business park development, to the state-of-the-art The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA).
Our one-stop shop approach is made possible not just through streamlined discussions within each city, but also via inter-city collaboration. By working together across the cities, we can position these cities as the best destinations for inward investment. If a conversation that starts with one city doesn’t go anywhere, there is always another member city where the fit might be better.
While we sometimes share the same strengths and end up competing for investment, as an alliance we can leverage it as an opportunity to combine our respective offers. This means that rather than saying to a potential investor it’s ‘one or the other’, we open up possibility for money to go into both. That way we stand to gain even more.
One example of such collaborative effort is our Scottish Cities Week in London taking place next week [between 23 and 26 January]. Rather than waiting on investment to come to our member cities, we are starting conversations with investors and developers through a series of events and networking meetings. Through the SCA, we are able to use Scottish Cities Week to bring together the leaders and senior officers of all our member cities, as well as representatives from the Scottish Government, Scottish Development International, and Department for International Trade.
Ultimately, we want to use Scottish Cities Week and other collaborative ventures to highlight our leadership in showcasing the economic potential of Scottish cities and facilitating positive conversations between the key players, which will come to a successful outcome for each of our members.
Our agenda is clear: achieving investment and creating growth very quickly, via clear and open connections to national agencies. But instead of waiting for the opportunity to come to us, city networks like SCA must continue to be proactive to bring about prosperity and growth.
John Alexander is chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance and leader of Dundee City Council
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