‘Lack of strength at top is stifling capital’s recovery’

EDINBURGH’S recovery from the impact of the economic downturn is being held back by a lack of strong leadership and overall vision for the city, experts have claimed.

Business leaders, economists, property agents and academics have all warned Edinburgh is being hampered by poor decision-making, shaken confidence in the wake of debacles such as the tramworks and uncertainty over which direction the city is heading in.

They say that although Edinburgh has emerged from the downturn in a reasonably strong position, its prospects are uncertain unless there is an overhaul in how the capital is governed.

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The city’s main business group says a lack of a “unity of purpose and a dynamic leadership” has meant the city has been unable to recover from the “shattering” impact of the financial crash.

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce claims Scotland’s PR elections for local government have left the capital handicapped when it comes to decision-making, with a divided leadership.

Deputy chief executive Graham Birse said: “The city requires a unity of purpose and dynamic leadership, which it has not had in recent years. We need everyone pulling together in the one team. Having a coalition in charge of the council has not been helpful.”

The past few years have seen Edinburgh lose about 4,000 jobs in the financial sector alone, with both RBS and HBOS having to be rescued with taxpayer-funded bailouts.

However, Dave Anderson, city development director at the council, insisted Edinburgh had proved “remarkably resilient”, despite the economic crisis, which he said was felt “acutely” in the city because of its reliance on the financial sector.

He said: “The city’s unique cultural assets, quality of place, science and technology capabilities and improving international air route connections have helped Edinburgh to ride out the recession better than most.

“Many who left jobs in banks did so on voluntary terms and the impact of job losses has been mitigated by growth elsewhere.”