Scottish Government cannot take Edinburgh for granted – leader comment

The Scottish Government must be prepared to help Edinburgh’s economic powerhouse through the Covid crisis for the sake of the nation as well as the city’s citizens.

Edinburgh is a gateway to Scotland for many visitors and an economic powerhouse
Edinburgh is a gateway to Scotland for many visitors and an economic powerhouse

If the extent of the challenges which lie ahead in a post-lockdown world was not already clear, then the precarious nature of our future employment is a sharp reminder.

A quarter of the workforce in Edinburgh, the traditional engine of the Scottish economy, face an uncertain future with their employment relying on industries hard hit by the Covid crisis.

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There is a similar story in many other parts of the country, especially those which rely heavily on industries such as tourism and hospitality which are likely to suffer for a long time to come as a result of the pandemic.

In years goneby, the country has largely been able to face financial downturns safe in the knowledge that the economic powerhouse which Edinburgh has become would provide a redoubt in even the toughest circumstances.

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Today, that previous certainty, like so many others, looks more precarious than ever.

Today, Edinburgh needs help just as much as every other part of the country, and that has to be a matter of concern for us all. This is the uncertain world we now live in.

Why should we worry any more about Edinburgh where wages and employment far outstrip those of most other parts of the country?

Gross value added, a measure of economic contribution, per head of population in Edinburgh was £44,250 in 2017, compared to the Scottish average of £25,500, a gap that has opened up over the last two decades. Edinburgh’s growth over the same period even eclipsed that of London’s.

Edinburgh generates a hugh proportion of Scotland’s wealth, subsidising public services across the country and attracting a huge share of the international workforce on which the nation relies.

Nevertheless there remains a perception that the Scottish Government does not quite grasp the significance of the Capital to the nation’s economic wellbeing and takes it somewhat for granted.

There is reason to fear that this extraordinary engine of the Scottish economy might be a more delicate than any of us had believed. And, if it starts to stutter, this will not simply be a problem for people in the city, but Scotland as a whole.

Alongside everything else we need to reconsider today is our view of Edinburgh, none more so perhaps than those in the Scottish Government as they consider our national response to the Covid crisis.

There is a perception among some Edinburgh businesses and politicians that the relative success of the city’s economy has led the Scottish Government to take its capital somewhat for granted.

And those who feel this way can point to figures published in March showing the city council was due to receive government funding of £1,422 per head of population, the lowest figure of any local authority in Scotland, and nearly £400 less than the average.

Viewed from a different perspective, some may argue that this is not unreasonable. If Edinburgh’s economy is doing well, while other parts of the country are struggling, should they not receive a greater share of taxpayers’ money in the hope that their economies will improve?

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