The recent announcement that Glasgow City Region is to be one of two new Investment Zones in Scotland, each of which will benefit from £80 million UK Government funding, is fantastic news.
In fact, in the past 18 months, we have seen a significant increase in resources and funding devolved to the City Region, with an anticipated £200 million of new investment or funding to be managed at a Regional level, including the £33 million Innovation Accelerator Programme and the £74 million Shared Prosperity Investment Plan.
Further capacity and revenue funding will also be provided from both governments to support this next level of Regional working.
We now have the tools in place to deliver transformational change at a Regional level, building on our existing partnership of eight councils.
This month we will publish our latest Annual Performance Report which sets out progress on the City Deal. The last few years have been challenging for the infrastructure programme due to increased costs and limited resources. However, with a revised Programme plan in place, we remain committed to our 21 infrastructure projects and are fully intent on stepping up the pace to accelerate the delivery of the City Deal Programme.
We have a proven track record in delivering on government funding. Our City Deal remains one of the most advanced in the UK. We are one of three pilot UK Innovation Accelerators and are the sole Region in Scotland to work collectively with our UK Shared Prosperity Fund Investment Plan.
We welcome these endorsements and the confidence of both Governments in the Region.
However, as one of the UK’s largest regions and home to some of the most deprived communities in the country, Glasgow City Region continues to have the greatest need for investment.
Our ambition requires to match the challenges faced today and in the future by the Region and by our residents and businesses. The key projects we want to deliver have been strongly evidenced by data and collectively they will supercharge the Region’s economy to the next level.
We need to realise our vision for the £2 billion Clyde Metro – a sustainable transport solution linking the airport to the city centre, providing greater access to jobs, education and leisure for the Region’s 1.8 million residents, joining up disconnected communities and driving investment in pockets of underused land, including along the Clyde.
The river Clyde is the largest untapped development opportunity in Western Europe. The acceleration of regeneration in the last ten years and recent City Deal investment is bringing new economic life and vibrancy to the area. But the river also brings challenges, with communities close to the river among the most disadvantaged in Scotland and facing issues around connectivity and proximity to Vacant and Derelict Land (VDL).
VDL is a key issue for the Region, with the city itself consistently with the highest concentration of VDL of any local authority in Scotland. VDL is often located in areas of deprivation and presents a barrier to economic growth. But it is also an enormous economic opportunity and one we are determined to address. Analysis underway at the Region will soon enable us to demonstrate the economic value of investment in individual pieces of VDL, and this will have major implications for our investment strategy.
Tackling the issue of climate change is another key challenge. As part of this we need to examine the river both as a source of energy and we need to address the risk of flooding generally and from the river, perhaps in the form of a river barrage.
We hope to develop a masterplan for the river Clyde to address these issues and opportunities. Delivering this then of course will then require extensive funding.
The Region’s three Innovation Districts, all centred along the river, are bringing further infrastructure, investment and jobs, setting the Region apart as an innovation hub. Coupled with structures and funding from the UK Government Innovation Accelerator Programme, we are well paced to build on this to elevate the innovation economy even further.
As a final but no less important point, we need to ensure that the Region has the skills required for the future, so that our residents and businesses are aligned to these new opportunities and resilient to the changes to come.
In the months ahead, as we move towards the conclusion of our City Deal programme, focus must turn to the next major package of investment from Government.
This year we saw comparator UK city regions being granted further extensive funding and local powers.
Glasgow City Region must be given similar powers and funding, to make the decisions that match the height of our ambition and to address our key collective and local challenges. This will be vital to our maintaining the momentum we have achieved, to realising our collective ambitions and in securing continued economic success and resilience for the Region, for Scotland and the UK.