Infrastructure investment ‘critical’ to Aberdeen’s economic recovery
An independent report on the state of Aberdeen city region’s economy said there needs to be continued focus on the factors critical for the long-term success of the region - economic diversification, skills, infrastructure investment, and energy transition.
The 2021 Economic Policy Panel Report said the relentless focus on clear prioritisation, co-creation of policy with stakeholders, and timely delivery needs to continue.
The fourth annual report comes at a time of continuing global economic challenge from the Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty that has brought along with the ongoing challenges from the changes to the oil and gas sector and the transition to net zero.
It also said the future success of the north east is critical for the long-term health of the Scottish and UK economies and the region cannot be expected to meet the complex challenges ahead alone. A more joined-up and coordinated approach across the Council, UK Government and Scottish Government on all issues that impact on regional economic development would aid long-term planning in Aberdeen.
The report said it was the right time to develop a new Regional Economic Strategy with Aberdeen taking a regional lead on managing natural assets in the transition to Net Zero, building on the recognition in the current Regional Economic Strategy which stated the region’s natural assets and clean environment are vital to its economic success.
It highlighted recent progress on the City Centre Masterplan and plans for redevelopment of the beachfront are welcome first steps in meeting a recommendation from the 2020 report that policy focuses on making Aberdeen a resilient and attractive place to live, work, and invest.
The downturn in oil and gas, which started in 2014 but had not fully recovered even by the start of the pandemic, led to a decline in relative economic performance across the region. The number of employees in the region fell by more than 15,000 between 2015 and the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
Despite this, on a GVA per head basis, the North-east remained some 31% and 19.3% above the Scottish and UK averages respectively in 2019, with earnings also higher than the national average (£32,747 in Aberdeen in 2021 compared with £31,672 in Scotland and £31,285 in the UK).
The report said the energy sector is critical to the success of the area with 40% of Scottish energy sector enterprises located in the North-east and about 60,000 jobs supported by the sector in the region.
Aberdeen City Council leader Councillor Jenny Laing welcomed the report.
Cllr Laing said: “I agree with the report’s focus on continued diversification into energy transition activities along with other sectors such as tourist, food and drink, creative industries, digital, and life sciences.
“It clearly shows that Aberdeen can be at the forefront of the UK’s ‘green recovery’, and it underlines the importance of the city as a driver of economic activity and highlights the key role the city region has in the future success of Scotland and the UK as a whole.”
“I am pleased the report comments positively on our recent progress with the City Centre Masterplan and plans for redevelopment of the beachfront along with connectivity to the city centre and I agree with the panel that this ongoing investment will help to drive both economic growth for the area and make Aberdeen a more attractive place to live, work and visit.
“It is important that investment continues in the North-east in physical and social infrastructure that in turn supports us attracting new inward investment.”
Aberdeen City Council city growth and resources convener Councillor Ryan Houghton said: “We as a council are committed to helping to ensure Aberdeen continues on the transition to net zero with the publication of our Net Zero Vision and Climate Change Plan, and a Strategic Infrastructure Plan to leverage support for the region’s transition towards net zero.
“These important documents will help to create jobs for our young people, retain and attract new talent and investment here in Aberdeen, and safeguard existing skills.
“Aberdeen needs the continuing support of the wider public sector and the private sector to build resilience and future prosperity while the city and region transitions towards net zero.”