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‘Confused and cluttered’ policy reduces impact of Scottish city deals

Words: Laura Edgar
Glasgow was the first city region to be awarded a deal / Shutterstock_659299072

A Holyrood committee has said there are ‘significant’ issues with Scotland’s city region deals that must be addressed, with rural areas facing being left out.

Deal or No Deal, by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee, notes that while city region deals are “in their infancy”, it has a number of concerns about economic growth projects.

Such deals were first introduced by the UK Government, with a number of English cities being awards deals, including Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

They have since been extended to Scotland, with £3.3 billion invested so far.

Glasgow City Region City Deal was the first deal awarded north of the border and is currently under review. The committee has recommended that other areas learn from Glasgow so they don’t end up in the same situation.

The report states that the “often confused and cluttered” policy landscape at local, Scottish and UK government levels “runs the risk of reducing the impact that can be achieved from the deals”.

For the committee, there are too many overlapping and competing initiatives. There is also a “mismatch” between the objectives of local government and the Scottish and UK governments. The committee said the UK Government’s focus is “purely economic” while the Scottish Government’s focus is inclusive growth.

Bob Doris MSP, Local Government and Communities Committee convener, said it is “clear from the evidence we have heard and our committee visits that there are significant issues with city region deals that must be addressed”.

“That’s why we strongly recommend that all governments – national and local – work together and agree to a single focus, as a key priority should be maximising the benefits for local communities.”

The committee thinks local communities and businesses should be involved in city region deal consultations that are meaningful, enabling them help to shape projects rather than “informing people after decisions have been made”.

Areas that are not covered by city region deals, including rural and remote areas, must not lose out against bigger cities, with the committee stating that initiatives such as the Ayrshire Growth Deal and work that forms par of the Borders Initiative “are not the poor cousins of city region deals”.

Doris said: “In order for city region deals to be a success right across Scotland, we need clarity on when this initiative will be extended to all. As these deals are in the early years of a 10-20 year programme of investment, our committee will be keeping a close eye to check whether these improvements have been made and whether further action is required.”

The committee wants to see more information available on the risks associated with each individual project and for the city region deals as a whole, as well as appropriate resourcing discussed between local authorities involved with deals and the joint UK Government and Scottish Government Scottish City Region Deal Delivery Group.

Deal or No Deal can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.

Image credit | Shutterstock