EDINBURGH’S £1.1 billion City Deal will result in thousands more people in employment and thousands more with new homes, council leader Adam McVey claimed as the long-awaited agreement was signed in the Capital.
The package, which took more than two years to negotiate, involves £350m of investment for innovation, £65m for new housing, £25m for skills, £120m for a flyover at the Sheri ffhall roundabout, £20m for roads in West Edinburgh and £20m for a new 1000-seater concert hall off St Andrew Square.
The deal, which also covers the Lothians, Fife and Borders, is being funded by £300m each from the UK and Scottish governments, with the councils and universities committing a further £500m.
The investment included in the deal is expected to create around 21,000 jobs in the region.
At a signing ceremony yesterday, Cllr McVey said: “It’s a good deal for Edinburgh, for the region, and makes sure what is special about Edinburgh remains special and we build on that success.
“In the years ahead, there will be thousands of people in employment and thousands of people in houses because this City Deal makes it possible.”
But there is disappointment among some that the deal does not include the power to introduce a tourist tax or help for the tram extension to Newhaven.
And the housing package is said to fall short of what had been hoped.
UK First Secretary of State Damian Green, in Edinburgh for the signing, said the most exciting feature of the deal was the emphasis on the future and creating “the jobs of tomorrow.”
He said: “This will be a transformational deal for Edinburgh and the area around it.
“And I think we can use it as a model of how co-operation and collaboration at all levels of government can achieve great things.”
Edinburgh’s is the fourth City Deal in Scotland. But the UK government is understood to be moving away from City Deals to other kinds of investment. But Mr Green said he thought it “unlikely” Edinburgh’s would be the last City Deal.
He said: “They are meant to provide the basis for long-term success. This is not a question of the UK and Scottish government signing an agreement with local councils and then going away. This is money that will be spent over 15 years, so it is meant as a long-term commitment. It involves the private sector and the academic world and everyone will play a role for the long term. That is why I think City Deals will prove successful.”
Scottish Secretary David Mundell acknowledged the agreement had taken a long time. “This has been a very complicated deal because of the number of local authorities involved and the other institutions. There had to be a lot of work put in, but that work has come to fruition.”
Asked about the trams, which the Scottish Government made clear it would not fund, Mr Mundell said: “These agreements are agreements with all the parties involved. It’s not a case of us coming in and imposing something that wasn’t agreed by one of the other partners or the UK government being the vehicle for funding something that the Scottish Government wouldn’t fund.”
And Scottish Government Economy Secretary Keith Brown defended the exclusion of the tourist tax.
“That’s a dialogue that’s been happening at local government, some people are supportive of it, others not so much.”
He said the City Deal included “the most important aspects of what was proposed to us”.
Cllr McVey said he found it hard to be disappointed with investment on such a large scale. He said: “There will probably be lots of things people will look at and say ‘I wish x, y or z was in it’.
“I’m quite content with what we have ended up with. We have a City Deal which is of an appropriate scale for our city and it does a lot which will leave a lasting legacy for us.”
Professor Cliff Hague, chair of the Cockburn Association, said new investment was always welcome, provided it was used wisely.
He said: “Support for innovation and links with the universities makes sense, as does spreading the
investment around the wider region. However, much of the money is earmarked for roads, which is likely to increase traffic and emissions.
“There are estimates for job creation, but that is not the only impact we should be looking at. Where are the new houses going to go? Will the money have strings attached to ensure that design is imaginative and ambitious in terms of carbon reduction targets? What about investing in conservation, and not just new build?”