Scots cities outperform UK peers during pandemic – with Edinburgh ranking top

Edinburgh has seen its economy fare best out of the UK’s cities during the pandemic, according to a new study.

This year’s survey shows that Edinburgh has been less affected economically than other cities. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
This year’s survey shows that Edinburgh has been less affected economically than other cities. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

The Good Growth for Cities report, compiled by PwC and think-tank Demos, assessed a number of “economic factors”, including jobs, health, income and skills, in 42 of the biggest cities in the UK.

The study in fact found the economic decline felt in the Scottish city worst-affected by Covid-19 would still not exceed the UK-wide average – and it called for a focus on skilling, sustainable income and health and wellbeing to help accelerate the post-pandemic recovery.

Following an analysis of gross value added – a measure of local economies and different sectors – the report found Edinburgh was the least-affected city in the UK, although its economy still reduced by 9.1 per cent last year.

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Glasgow’s economy contracted by 10.4 per cent in 2020, compared to an average of 11 per cent for cities across the UK.

Stewart Wilson, the government and health industries leader for PwC Scotland, said the report highlighted the need to look beyond traditional measures of economic success such as gross domestic product (GDP).

He said: “The latest Good Growth for Cities report examines a country clearly facing an enormous challenge, which has impacted the health and the economies of our towns and cities like nothing else in recent memory.

“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on existing economic and social inequalities. This reinforces the view that when the post-pandemic recovery begins in earnest, we must look beyond GDP and focus our collective efforts on tackling issues that really matter to the public, and their local economies, such as skilling, sustainable income and health and wellbeing.

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“We need an approach which takes into account the strengths and needs of individual towns and cities to build more resilience and drive a fair recovery across the UK.”

The report also predicts cities hit worst by the pandemic will see a quicker recovery, although they will still be worse off than pre-pandemic levels.

Glasgow’s economy will grow by 4.6 per cent this year, according to a projection in the report, with Aberdeen rising by 4.1 per cent and Edinburgh seeing 3.9 per cent growth.

Recovery

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Mr Wilson said: “This year’s survey shows that Edinburgh – thanks in part to its broad spread of economic sectors – has been less impacted economically than other cities. However, in line with the rest of the UK where cities hardest-hit will be quickest to recover, it seems Glasgow will be quickest to emerge.”

A study published last month claimed that coronavirus has stressed the urgent need to tackle Scotland’s “productivity puzzle” and build economic resilience.

The second edition of the annual CBI/KPMG Scottish productivity index highlighted business closures, job losses and uncertainty, adding the cumulative impact of the pandemic has provided a “critical reminder” of the need to fix the fundamentals of Scotland’s “underperforming” economy.

“Addressing Scotland’s decades-long struggle with sluggish productivity, strengthening resilience, and making the country truly competitive remain vital challenges that must not be left to future generations to resolve,” the report stated.

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