Covid recovery: Edinburgh needs special status as Scotland emerges from lockdown – Andrew Montague

Scotland’s economic prospects are brightening as we continue to emerge from the latest Covid-19 lockdown.

The further reopening of businesses and relaxation of social restrictions, which take effect from today, are hugely welcome as we aim to return to a sense of normality and revive our battered economy.

The Scottish government deserves credit for many of the measures it has introduced to help businesses, especially those in more rural areas which rely heavily on a thriving hospitality sector that’s been so badly affected by the pandemic.

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Without losing sight of the importance of assisting areas of like the Highlands and Islands, it’s essential that the key focus for government support should be on Scotland’s cities.

The city regions of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are forecast to account for 84 per cent of net additional jobs created in Scotland over the next six years, underlining the economic importance of these key centres as we rebuild from the impact of coronavirus.

We need to see a particular focus on Scotland’s capital city which remains the nation’s economic engine. Edinburgh matters because its economic success will be critical in driving forward a strong recovery across the rest of Scotland.

With the Edinburgh city region contributing nearly 30 per cent of Scotland’s GDP, it currently ranks as the second most-productive city in the UK, only behind London. Edinburgh is also the gateway to more than 60 per cent of all visitors who come to Scotland.

For that specific reason, it’s essential that business and government work closely together to reinstate Edinburgh’s festival programme. With support from Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, which is campaigning for the city’s economic recovery to be a key political priority, many locally based businesses are looking at innovative means to facilitate a safe and sustainable return to a sense of normality.

This includes the revival of key events this summer, most notably the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, which were attracting around 4.4 million visitors each year, second only to the Olympic Games in terms of crowd numbers. Crucially these events bring in visitors from across the globe and provide a platform for all tourism businesses throughout Scotland.

Festivals are not only important to Scotland’s reputation as a global arts and culture centre, they also support Edinburgh businesses generating an estimated £313 million for the city’s bars, restaurants and cafes. While it’s encouraging to see the International Festival planning some limited outdoor performances this summer and the Fringe taking production registrations for this year, it’s essential we get these events fully back on track as soon as possible or Edinburgh could risk losing its status as a global festival city.

There are great efforts currently underway behind the scenes involving festival organisers, local and national government and Edinburgh-based businesses, including mine, to ensure key festivals can return. It’s imperative that innovative and effective ideas are pursued to ensure we’re successful in those efforts.

As the veil of lockdown continues to lift, businesses will welcome further dialogue with the Scottish government to get our city economies thriving again. Investing in public health measures to support a safe and sustainable reopening will help ensure Edinburgh and Scotland’s other key cities can flourish, creating the jobs and prosperity to drive forward a sustainable recovery.

Andrew Montague is CEO of Edinburgh-based ClearWater Hygiene

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