Scotland’s seven cities call for historic new powers to shape economic future

Councillor Andrew Burns
Councillor Andrew Burns

The local authority leaders of Scotland’s seven main cities have issued a collective call for a new working relationship with the UK and Scottish governments to allow them to reach their full economic potential.

In a report, ‘Empowering City Government’, the city leaders say only a fundamental shake-up of existing arrangements will allow them to “compete with other cities close to home and globally”.

The report points specifically to the challenges that Scottish cities face from their English counterparts who are “gaining a competitive advantage” as a result of their City Region and Devolution deals.

Such deals, the report says, provides them with the ability to form new working arrangements with key partners.

Scotland’s cities contribute more than half of Scotland’s GVA and provide more than 60 per cent of the workforce.

The city leaders have published a four-point plan which, if given the go-ahead, would see the councils secure historic new powers over tax, spending and the development of massive infrastructure projects.

In its blueprint for unprecedented change, the local authority leaders call for a new cross-city partnership with the likes of Transport Scotland with cities sharing in key policy decision-making.

On housing, the cities seek greater power to deliver the Scottish Government’s affordable housing target, involving consultation on new policies set nationally, the local administration of new regional housing infrastructure funds (in addition to the new national housing infrastructure fund), a five year certainty over affordable grant levels and first refusal over all surplus public sector land for affordable housing.

The report also puts forward plans for closer working ties with other national infrastructure bodies, like Scottish Water and Zero Waste Scotland.

Leader of City of Edinburgh Council, Councillor Andrew Burns, said: “Scotland’s seven cities are committed to driving forward economic growth, so we can continue to promote ourselves on the international stage as attractive, modern places to invest and to carry out business with. The important research we have commissioned suggests that a new partnership is required if we are to reach our economic potential and meet the significant challenges that lie ahead.

“Fundamental to this new approach are a number of shared objectives which include improving connectivity and infrastructure, setting a diverse tax system across Scotland, improving our communities and a radical change to economic development. We firmly believe that by embracing these key changes we can ensure Scotland can compete economically with other cities close to home and globally.”

Councillor Burns said he wanted Scotland’s seven major cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Perth and Stirling – to be given a clear, strategic role in directing investments to cities and city regions.

He said the new partnership would see local government, central government, national agencies and key business stakeholders working collaboratively to maximise the benefits from both local decision-making and joint working on prioritised national outcomes.

The city leaders said its agenda for greater growth would feed the country’s tax base and drive the Government’s economic vision for Scotland.

The plan calls for a new joined-up approach to foster enterprise and skills more effectively, and to be given a bigger say on migration policy in the context of supporting higher and further education.

And the city leaders also want a seat at the top table in the policy development and execution of new welfare powers, as well as more responsibility for creating polices around health and social care.

The group is calling for a meeting to discuss their proposals with both the Scottish and UK governments at the earliest opportunity.

Councillor Burns added: “We look forward to early discussions with both the Scottish and UK Governments to take this forward for the benefit of the whole of Scotland.”

Perth and Kinross Council leader Ian Miller cacked the call for new powers for Scottish cities.

Councillor Miller said: “I have stressed to my counterparts in the Scottish Cities Alliance the need for a radical approach to be taken to allow us to deliver the ambitions we have for our cities and wider regions. I am pleased that today the council leaders for the seven cities are coming together to call for the new powers which are required in areas like local taxation, and to ensure greater co-operation and joint working across all public sector agencies.

“Those new power will be essential if we are to achieve the prosperous and successful society for the Scottish people which we aspire to.”

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