‘Tension undermining’ Scottish growth scheme

8 Jan 18

A multi-billion pound scheme to boost economic growth in areas across Scotland has been undermined by “tension” between the Scottish and UK Governments, according to a Holyrood report out today. 

The Scottish Parliament’s local government and communities committee found there had been competing interests in the roll-out of City Region Deals between the UK Government, whose focus was on pure economic growth, and the Scottish Government, which prioritised inclusive growth.

The Scottish Government, which has committed more than £1bn to the 20 year programme, was asked “only at the last minute” to co-fund the deal, the committee heard, and had had no prior discussion about some of its contents.

Relations had improved since then, but could still be improved, said the Deal or No Deal? report.

Funding for projects was still highly delineated between reserved policy objectives on one hand, and devolved objectives on the other.

The report warned that a “cluttered policy landscape” at local government, Scottish and UK levels, with too many overlapping and competing initiatives, could reduce the impact of the programme.

It also raised concerns about transparency, saying that the selection of projects for funding under City Region Deals was too opaque and top-down.

It was not clear that there had been, or continued to be, any significant engagement with local businesses, charities and community bodies.

City Region Deals currently in place focus on the regions around Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness, areas which together account for 83% of the Scottish population. Two further deals for the cities of Stirling and Dundee are under discussion.

Scottish economy secretary Keith Brown said City Region Deals represented “an important opportunity for inclusive economic growth and to forge new collaborations between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and local authorities and their regional partners.” 

But they were only one of the Scottish Government’s economic levers. “We are focused on improving the economic prospects of every region in Scotland and will work to ensure that all areas benefit from Regional Economic Partnerships, which provide opportunities for local communities and businesses to engage in regional economic planning and development,” he said.

A spokesman for the UK Government, which has also committed over £1bn to the scheme in Scotland, said: “We welcome the committee’s scrutiny and agree that UK City Deals have brought – and will continue to bring - significant investment into Scotland, supporting local priorities and strengthening the country’s economy by driving productivity, wages and growth.

“There are other local authority areas keen to maximise the benefits of the growth deals programme and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and local partners as proposals develop.”

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