Progress on potential £2.9bn Aberdeen City Region Deal

union street AberdeenA deal which aims to release about £2.9 billion for infrastructure improvements in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire remains on track following “positive” negotiations in Westminster.

An adjournment debate on the Aberdeen City Region Deal in the House of Commons has been secured by Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman. The Deal promises to be an ambitious investment and development programme developed by the public sector, industry and the educational sectors.

Northern powerhouse minister James Wharton told MPs that conversations were ongoing and that his officials continued to have “constructive dialogue” over the potential agreement with officials from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councils as well as the Scottish Government.

He also confirmed Conservative peer Lord Dunlop, parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Scotland Office, would be happy to meet the Ms Blackman, although no specific timetable for the negotiations was set out.

He said: “Each agreement must be a genuine deal with offers and asks on both sides and the onus remains on Aberdeen and its partners to develop a credible proposal.

“That is something that we want to see happen, we want to see delivered, but there is a process that needs to be taken through in order to deliver that to ensure that any deal is robust, offers value for money for taxpayers, it offers value for money for people and it delivers what it is supposed to for the people and the economy of Aberdeen.”

Ms Blackman said: “I’m delighted to have secured this debate on the Aberdeen City Region Deal. It is so important that our elected representatives at all levels keep the pressure on to ensure this ambitious deal is delivered. There is cross party support, we just need to make sure the project doesn’t run out of steam.

“We need to ensure that our population continues to live and work successfully in the area. In Aberdeen we have low unemployment at just 2.3 per cent, but 25 per cent of our working age population earn under £15,000 a year. If large salaries are pushing up the cost of land and the price of housing, we need to ensure that those on lower wages have access to affordable or social housing, both of which have been sadly lacking in Aberdeen throughout the past 20 years.

“In order to sustain the oil and gas industry and unlock future opportunities, we must act to ensure that Aberdeen continues to be a competitive region and a global centre of excellence. With the challenges of a mature field and a low oil price, we need to get very good, very quickly at performing in this new environment.

“Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire need to become world leaders at decommissioning – we have the talent and skills locally and the ability to export those skills as other fields across the world reach the end of production. We also have a huge pool of talented engineers, scientists, and industry experts in technology. This means Aberdeen is uniquely placed to take the lead for the UK in renewable technologies.”

Council chiefs in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire hope to submit a formal bid to the UK and Scottish governments in the coming months, and believe it could be signed off before the end of the year.

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