City Region Deal latest

Gavin Corbett ponders the latest reported delay in the Edinburgh City Region Deal.

The local press has faithfully reported the twists and turns of the Edinburgh city region deal for almost two years near. And small wonder as the package of new funding and new powers has the capacity to shape the city region economy for decades ahead.

If and when the deal is finally announced, this week or in the autumn, there are some critical aspects to look out for.

Firstly, how large is the Deal? Both Glasgow and Cardiff had deals of around £1 billion so that is the kind of scale which Edinburgh and SE Scotland should be looking for.

Secondly, to what extent are UK and Scottish governments prepared to hand over powers as well as funding to local level: over land assembly, energy planning and new sources of income like tourism levies? If the Deal is to be truly transformative it has to be about changing the mindset on centralising powers.

Thirdly, and most importantly, to what kind of economy is City Region Deal the gateway? If we get a deal which is all about urban sprawl and more roads ‘n’ roundabouts that is looking back to failed 1960s planning.

Two years ago I hosted a meeting of academics and campaign groups to consider what a low carbon, sustainable, green city deal would look like. The answer? Investment in public transport, cycling and walking. Housing development focusing on reclaiming derelict land within settlements, built to standards that will still make the mark in 2050. Developing a local food economy. Improving the energy resilience of the region. And harnessing the “knowledge economy” to revolutionise working patterns. Among many others.

Is this a pipedream? The best of our European competitors are already well down those paths so a City Region Deal at its best is about retaining Edinburgh’s edge in the kind of economy which is our only future.