City Deal must be of benefit to the Borders

Edinburgh UK Apr 10 2015;  Green Party MP candidate Sarah Beattie Smith at Gatfield Square. credit steven scott taylor / J P License
Edinburgh UK Apr 10 2015; Green Party MP candidate Sarah Beattie Smith at Gatfield Square. credit steven scott taylor / J P License

A programme to transform the economy of the South East of Scotland must be firmly focused on a fairer and greener local economy.

That was the view of the Scottish Borders Branch of the Scottish Green Party this week.

The South East Scotland ‘City Deal’ is a partnership between Edinburgh, the three other Lothian councils as well as Fife and the Borders, which have come together to work up a £1 billion funding package to improve the economic fortunes of the city region.

Similar models are in place in Glasgow and various English cities. Under the model, UK and Scottish governments and local councils borrow money to improve the economy, on the assumption that future higher tax receipts will pay it back.

However, the local Greens say that the kind of investment needed must be based on a vision of what a more sustainable economy looks like in the decades ahead.

Green candidate in the 2016 Scottish elections, Sarah Beattie­ Smith, who grew up in the Borders, said: “The City Deal is a major opportunity to get funding into the local economy. The benefits need to be spread through all six participating councils and jobs created for people who need them most – our younger people and those who need help to get back into work.

“However, the kind of economy also matters. If the investment was to be for more roads and out ­of ­town shopping centres, for example, then that locks us into an economy which simply won’t work in 2030 or 2040, even if it worked now.

“So a major driver of the City Deal has to be a low carbon economy: for example, investing in public transport and walking and cycling to work; or spending on technology which allows people to work at home or remotely; or creating jobs from major investment in energy conservation, freeing up other funds for direct economic benefit.

“We need a city deal for the Borders that is more than business as usual.”

In a report to SBC in May, a key objective was set of a five per cent increase in GVA (Gross Value Added) across the region, to be achieved in 20 years.

Secondary criteria included addressing economic inequality in the region, through improved access to employment and an increase in the average wage, as well as a geographic balance across the region in terms of projects and economic benefits delivered.