The New Scottisch Cities Alliance: Effective Collaboration for Prosperity and Job Creation

Map of Scotland - showing the 7 main cities

by Kenneth Wardrop

There has been increasing debate in Scotland over the past couple of years about the need for the country to develop an effective urban development policy.  This led to the coming together of the major cities in a new collaboration to raise the profile of the role of the cities as drivers of the country’s economy.  It also resulted in November 2011 in the Scottish Government, working with the Scottish Cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and Stirling, and the organisation Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI http://www.scdi.org.uk/ ), publishing the report ‘Scotland’s Cities: Delivering for Scotland’  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/365367/0124252.pdf.

Scottish Government Report: ‘Scotland’s Cities:
Delivering for Scotland’ (November 2011)

As part of Queen Elizabeth the Second’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, on the 14 March 2012 the settlement of Perth was designated as Scotland’s 7th city, and it becoming a partner in this collaboration and bringing it in to the scope of this Scottish Government policy initiative.

City of Perth

The Scottish Cities Alliance builds on an earlier collaboration – the Glasgow Edinburgh Collaboration Initiative (GECI) that in Scotland successfully raised the profile of the economic impact of cities, issues around the under performance in relation to levels of productivity of the Scottish cities against European benchmarks, and the disproportionate positive opportunities for the economy from strategic investment in the cities, and the power of cities to drive national economies.

Progress made by the English Core Cities Network http://www.corecities.com/  a collaboration of England’s eight largest cities outside London, was also a catalyst for the creation of the Scottish Cities Alliance.  The Alliance has as a critical core driver a powerful forum of the political leaders of the seven cities working with the Scottish Government Minister and civil servants, and that acts as a Leadership Group for the new collaboration.

City of Stirling

The Seven Cities within their political boundaries have a combined population of circa 1.64 million people [Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city (Pop.592,000), Edinburgh is the capital city  (Pop.486,000), Aberdeen “Europe’s Energy Capital”  (Pop.: 217,000), Dundee (Pop. 152,230), Perth (Pop.84,600), Inverness (Pop. 60,000), and Stirling (Pop. 45,750)], while over half of Scotland’s overall population of circa 5 million people live within the country’s city regions, and 86% live within one hour of the seven cities.

City of Inverness

A challenge for Scotland in the global market place is that its cities are small (especially when compared with the cities of China, India and South America), however the combined population of the urban conurbations, particularly in the ‘Central Belt’ with c.3 million people, put the urban population on par with other comparator European centres of population.

This critical mass of population, labour market and scale of the functioning economic unit undoubtedly creates the desired agglomeration effects found in urban conurbations. It is anticipated that the Alliance will also add value by enhancing global networking opportunities, strengthening research and development linked to the commercialisation of academic research, and combining the strengths of key industry sectors such as life sciences, low carbon industries, energy (especially renewables), the creative industries, tourism, and finance and business services.

City of Glasgow

The report ‘Scotland’s Cities: Delivering for Scotland’ focuses on four themes:

  • connected cities
  • knowledge cities
  • sustainable cities
  • and vibrant and cultural cities.

In December 2011 the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy (the first time the Scottish Government has had a minister with specific responsibility for Cities Strategy) unveiled a City Investment Fund of €6.05 million to advance the work of the Scottish Cities Alliance.  This will help the Alliance establish pilot projects to demonstrate the ‘added value’ from collaboration.

City of Edinburgh

In another interesting development  the Scottish Cities Knowledge Centre http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2011/Title,78613,en.html

with the support of the Scottish Government was established in a joint collaboration between the Universities of St Andrews and Glasgow, the new Centre will support the work of the Scottish Cities Alliance.  The new Centre will pool and build upon existing academic and research expertise on cities growth issues from within these institutions, and will also draw upon international experience and best practice to provide solid evidence, and a research and evaluation base for the Alliance.

City of Dundee

Expectations are that the Alliance will develop collaborative projects to attract private sector investment and accelerate the pace of investment in Scotland’s cities. Promoting distinctive assets at a scale that will attract increased international attention and investment in key growth sectors. The underpinning principles that it is believed will unlock the ‘value added’, and wealth and job creation opportunities from collaboration include:

  • building on combined strengths
  • strengthening partnerships
  • removal of barriers
  • helping cities determine shared priorities
  • developing strong investment propositions
  • creating a framework for investment and finance – leveraging other funding
  • and supporting  sustainable growth.

Based on evidenced based advocacy the Alliance also aims to influence Scottish Government spending priorities on large scale infrastructure programmes and other Scottish and UK Government programmes that will enhance economic growth prospects. The Alliance will also be focused on developing effective UK wide and internationally focused collaborations. An objective for the Alliance is that it will foster a “Team Scotland” approach.

The Alliance is in its early stages and is currently in the process of recruiting a Director and pulling together a small staff team based within the SCDI organisation, and who will co-ordinate action teams from across the seven cities.  At this stage given the early nature of the workings of the Alliance there are as yet no quantifiable measures of the positive impacts of collaboration.  However, the publication by the Scottish Government of the policy document Scotland’s Cites: Delivering for Scotland backed by €6.05 million of funding support, the public declarations of support by the City Leaders,  the creation of the Scottish Cities Knowledge Centre and formation of a staff team facilitated by the Scottish Council Development and Industry represent positive measures of intent.

The interactions of the “triple helix” of industry, government and academia (working with communities), and drawing on scale, critical mass and combined resources, represents a powerful coming together, which supported by targeted Scottish Government  investment aligned with local spending by the cities, will I believe unlock significant positive forces to enhance Scotland’s global competitive positioning.

City of Aberdeen

For those interested in destination and urban development, and in particular the impacts of collaborations versus competition, the Scottish Cities Alliance represents a case study worth following as it progresses in the coming years

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