Looking to the year ahead, there is still much to look forward to despite the tough economic conditions that continue to impact on our plans for economic growth and recovery.
The UK avoided a 2022 recession thanks to unexpected GDP growth in November. Labour market headline indicators also show some positive change, as economic inactivity levels are starting to come down.And according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, Glasgow is set to be among the fastest growing cities in the UK this year. The outlook for 2023 is less positive, with the UK set to enter recession this year, according to the Bank of England. But it will be shorter and less severe than previously considered.
You can read more about this in the latest Regional Intelligence Hub briefing.
In the next few months, the City Deal programme review will be finalised to take account of ongoing issues around increasing costs and limited resources. We will also welcome the completion of some key project milestones, including the opening of the M8 pedestrian bridge at Sighthill and the build finish at Greenock Ocean Terminal.
In the past few weeks, discussions on the Innovation Accelerator have taken place with colleagues in government. And we look forward to formalising projects and funding in the coming months. Our Innovation Accelerator is set to bring millions of pounds of additional investment to the Region and to elevate our Innovation economy to even greater heights.
On the Regional Economic Strategy, good progress has been made on the Region’s Green Business Support Programme which will help businesses transition to Net Zero, support business growth and ensure a consistent, improved approach across our eight council areas.
Following discussion with business support teams across the Region’s councils, the scope of the programme and proposed approach have been developed. The Green Business Support scheme will provide advice, expert help and funding to aid businesses to achieve cost savings whilst improving their sustainability, resilience and management of waste. While there is still further work to be done to firm up the details, the scheme is set to encompass business adviser training which is currently being piloted at Glasgow and an energy audit.
This year there will be further developments in our plans for the Clyde Metro and Clyde Mission.
Regrettably, on a less positive note, the decision by the UK and Scottish Governments on the winning Green Freeport bids has put Glasgow and the west of Scotland at risk of significant social and economic disadvantage. The Region could now also find it increasingly difficult to compete against comparator regions.
The west of Scotland now stands out as being the only major coast in England and Scotland without freeport status and the risks of displacement, particularly in manufacturing and haulage, are extremely significant and deeply concerning. Neither government can afford for the powerhouse of Scotland’s economy to be disadvantaged in this way.
And while I congratulate councils that have secured recent Levelling Up funding – similar to the decisions on the Green Freeports, the west of Scotland has not been given the government funding that we need.
Glasgow may be enjoying an economic renaissance. But Glasgow and the wider Region are still home to some of the most deprived communities in Scotland and the UK. As the largest Region in Scotland and one of the largest in the UK, the reality is that we have the greatest need for public funding, and the largest inequality gap to address.
We have a proven track record of delivering projects with real social, economic and regeneration outcomes, and are successfully leading the most advanced City Deal in Scotland. We also have evidenced plans in place to deliver projects and capital programmes that will address the Region’s key issues and challenges, particularly around poverty and inequality.
In the face of other areas being handed a competitive advantage, and in the context of greater devolution of budgets and responsibility to comparator City Regions such as Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, it’s all the more vital that both governments work with us to make sure that we can continue to build on the strong progress we have made to date.
If the UK and Scottish Governments are serious about levelling up and targeting public funding based effectively on need and opportunity, we need commitment to strategic discussions to take place on a wider package of investment for the Region and greater local economic decision-making powers.