EDINBURGH has been named as one of the most sustainable cities on Earth in a new report ranking economic output, green credentials and social mobility.
The Capital was ranked 13th in the world in the new “sustainable cities index”, second only to London in the UK.
But the wide-ranging study – which takes into account crime, obesity and long working hours, as well as more traditional indicators such as GDP – also outlines key challenges that need to be tackled in the coming decades.
These include Edinburgh’s booming population, mounting housing crisis and yawning gap between rich and poor.
The study, which was drawn up by forecasting firm Arcadis, states that while the Capital rakes in more cash than anywhere else in the UK outside of London, income inequality is holding it back.
The verdict comes as Edinburgh prepares to launch a city-wide campaign to create a blueprint for how it can advance in the coming decades.
From futuristic transport to digital jobs and green energy, residents are being asked to share their vision for the Capital over the next three decades – in order to help guide it into the future.
The 2050 Edinburgh City Vision urges locals to answer three key questions:
n What’s great about Edinburgh?
n What could be better?
n What would you like Edinburgh to be like in 2050?
The initiative was launched this morning to a 100-strong audience made up of delegates from all corners and sectors of the city, including pupils from Portobello High School and Edinburgh Book Festival chairman Allan Little.
Graham Hill, Arcadis’ cities director for Edinburgh, hailed the city’s current global standing – but insisted it was vital bosses and residents did not “rest on their laurels”.
He highlighted a number of areas that need improving, adding: “[We need] housing – more affordable housing, more types of housing – and also transport, in terms of links to the city and getting around the city.
“Finally, there’s the equality issues. There’s a gap between the haves and the have-nots. There’s stuff to do.”
The sustainable cities index insists Edinburgh is “home to one of the UK’s most productive and qualified workforces”, underlining the “high quality of life that is to be had in the region”.
But it adds: “Yet, despite high levels of prosperity amongst the educated classes and white collar workers, Edinburgh still suffers from a relative lack of income equality.
“Insufficient access to opportunities in less privileged areas is holding Edinburgh back in the people rankings, and the challenge for the Scottish Government will be to improve community benefits, access to jobs and education standards.”
The report argues that the new Queensferry Crossing and plans to extend the tram service will go some way towards boosting transport infrastructure, but insists more needs to be done.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh has stolen Glasgow’s mantle as the “dear green place”, with the index noting the Capital has 112 parks, and more trees per head of population than any other UK city.
Council chief executive Andrew Kerr said the upcoming City Vision would allow the Capital to “start thinking seriously about what we want Edinburgh to look like in ten, 20, even 30 years’ time”.
He added: “A City Vision for Edinburgh – based on the true aspirations of people of all ages who live, work and study in the Capital – will provide all of us with a clear, long-term plan to guide strategy and investment for years to come.
“We’re starting with a blank canvas. This will not be a council vision, rather our role will be to facilitate and support city-wide collaboration and debate.”
A look back through the decades shows the scale of imagination needed if Edinburgh is to rise to the challenge of the coming years.
Statistics show the make-up of the city has changed enormously since the 1980s, with massive upheaval in everything from jobs to lifestyle choices.
In 1981, the Capital’s population was in decline, a trend which continued into the mid 1990s. But over the next two decades, it is expected to boom by 24 per cent – a rate of growth significantly faster than other major UK cities. Meanwhile, the number of residents aged over 85 has risen dramatically, with life expectancy also increasing.
More adults live alone, while single-parent households, part-time jobs and private renting are also on the rise. Manufacturing jobs, however, have plummeted by 28,000 since 1981.
The Edinburgh of the future is also likely to be increasingly multicultural. While 95.7 per cent of all city residents were born in the UK around 30 years ago, this dropped to 85 per cent in 2011.
John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said: “Over the last 30 years Edinburgh has been a city of innovation and change. The vision for the next 30 years is now in all of our hands. This is an incredible and unique opportunity to shape our city – from the community, economy and environment.”
City bosses are looking for as many people as possible to share their ideas for Edinburgh’s future in the coming months, with a final document outlining the City Vision due in July next year.
New York, Cambridge, Reading, Milton Keynes and Glasgow are just some of the cities that already have similar plans in place.
n To share your ideas, go to the Edinburgh 2050 website, or tweet @edinburgh using the hashtage #Edinburgh2050.