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An Insight from Scotland Policy Conference


Our Strategic Director Lauren Bennie provides the low down from the Scotland Policy Conference held in September:

The solutions to the lack of Scotland’s economic and inclusive growth lie in long term economic strategies. As Hugh Aitken of CBI Scotland rightly said, if the answers were to be found in short term 3 to 5-year objectives, we would have solved our country’s problems already.

Local government should be at the heart of future City Region Deals, said no panellist ever at the conference and this is unsurprising given the officer and central government-led assembly of the panels. Nonetheless, several questions from the floor addressed place-making, community engagement, housing stats and citizen-led contributions to existing and future regional deals.

Tay Cities Region Deal has uniquely gone beyond the election cycle of local government to establish their 20-year economic strategy from 2017 to 2037, using regional data to make correlations between workers, employer locations and homesteads. The strategy goes beyond the political cycle of the local authorities and deals with the challenges of bespoke processes, transparent business transactions and relationship management to meet the expectations of the community and locally elected members and stakeholders.

Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs & Fair Work, the penultimate speaker before Lord Duncan of Springbank took to the lectern, was of the view that if communities, their citizens, their universities and local groups are to approach our treasuries for financial support for their own bespoke deals, then this should be formulated through their local councils. And yet there are no rules when it comes to the City Region Deals. No steadfast processes have been devised. The structures are fluid and in free form. No one model is the same. It is important to note that as all LEPs in England have a Growth Deal, the entirety of the country is covered. The same cannot be said for Scotland.

There is little correlation between national and regional priorities and this will be the next challenge for the City Regions. Local authorities will need to assert their City Deals into the national context and could see themselves competing with other local councils to be prioritised in one future economic strategy for Scotland. Not only will future City Regions Deals need to take a long term strategic approach, they must also go beyond the boundaries of their regions and place themselves in the national context, measuring up needs versus opportunity alongside the demands of the business sector seeking fast-paced high level commercial transactions, a sector we know can struggle to translate, respect and trust local government activities.