‘Ambitious’ plan to reshape Glasgow region launched

An “ambitious” strategy which will influence decisions and spending across Glasgow and surrounding areas over the next 10 years has been launched today.

The Glasgow City Region — made up of eight councils, including Glasgow City Council — has set out how it plans to address current and future challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and technological advances.

In the strategy, which has been endorsed by the UK and Scottish Government, there is a 12-point action plan, with major projects such as a Metro and a massive housing retrofit programme proposed.

How is Glasgow City Council reacting?

Glasgow’s council leader Susan Aitken said: “Twelve key programmes are proposed which include delivering on the potential of the waterfront through the Clyde Mission; a Metro system connecting the wider City Region; the home energy retrofit; support for our city and town centres; ensuring citizens are equipped with the skills for the new economies; and assisting businesses on their transition to net zero.

“Transformation will of course require significant investment. Whether it is creating the conditions for the likes of Barclays to bring thousands of jobs, or our innovation districts, we’ll continue to find new ways of bringing in investment into our communities and business base.”

What is in the strategy?

The new strategy sets out three key challenges: tackling the climate emergency, making the economy more inclusive and increasing productivity.

It states addressing the climate emergency will involve managing the risk of rising sea levels, flooding and heatwaves as well as supporting businesses with climate action and ensuring a fair and equitable transition to net zero.

The City Region also hopes to deliver a more inclusive economy, tackling the underlying drivers, such as rising underemployment, economic activity due to ill health and low employment rates for females and BAME groups, which contribute to the region having some of the most deprived communities in Scotland.

Delivering an inclusive economy will require considerable support, the strategy says, including government funding and help from “progressive” private sector firms.

How are businesses reacting?

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said he warmly welcomed the “progressive, ambitious and carefully considered statement of intent”.

“With innovation at its very core, this strategy will ensure that Glasgow’s entrepreneurs, business community and research universities are well-equipped to enthusiastically approach the opportunities which both net zero and artificial intelligence present.”

He described the City Region as an “economic powerhouse” and said the strategy “tackles both the climate emergency and the long-standing exclusion of too many neighbourhoods from economic prosperity”.

What work is in the scheme?

Planned work includes a regional investment fund, which would provide initial funding for development projects, such as the reuse of vacant and derelict land.

A Future Towns and City initiative will use data technology to help understand the changing nature of town centres, and support the development of policies to address this.

There will be a fair and healthy work programme, which aims to help employers keep people in employment. An estimated 30.7 per cent of the region’s economically inactive residents are excluded from work due to health conditions, the strategy says.

A pilot scheme will be set up to boost the foundational economy, which makes up over 60 per cent of jobs in the city region, and covers a “significant proportion” of low paid jobs.

The foundational economy includes sectors such as social care, tourism, retail, food, health services, hospitality and education, and the intention is to create a fund to support the most innovative businesses, transforming “how they operate, supporting growth and ultimately leading to higher wages”.

There are also plans to provide green business support to small and medium size companies, offering expert advice on production, supply chains and transport, and a ‘green demonstrator’ showing how a regional approach to electrical vehicle charging would work.

One key area of work will be around the River Clyde, which the strategy describes as being “perhaps the greatest untapped development opportunity in Western Europe”.

“Home to swathes of vacant and derelict land, equivalent in size to 15 times the size of the SEC Campus, it has also the potential to play a leading role in the transition to net zero.”

What are the governments saying?

Scottish Government trade minister Ivan McKee said: “This strategy puts the 1.8 million residents of the Glasgow City Region at its heart, delivering opportunities to grow and recover from this very challenging period for businesses and workers.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart, said: “This is an ambitious plan with a focus on sustainability and creating opportunity throughout. The UK Government is working closely with Glasgow City Region and will continue to support their goals through its regional investments.”

What councils are involved?

The councils in the City Region are: Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire.