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Funding can light a flame for growth

  • Date: Monday 27th July 2020
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Further regional growth deals have been agreed and announced recently, with £90 million of funding pledged for Falkirk and £100 million for the Scottish Islands.

These latest agreements bring the total investment across Scotland by both Scottish and UK governments to more than £3.2 billion, which is good news.

Regional growth deals are designed to bring about long-term improvement to local economies and by taking a strategic approach that will ultimately drive inclusive economic growth for local authorities, the private sector and both education and skills providers.

The hope is that the whole of Scotland will benefit, but instead of a blanket approach, the government is announcing deals in stages and tailoring its plans for each region. This makes sense as it’s better to focus on doing things properly in one area at a time, rather than trying to spread the pot too thinly at the start and not really having much impact anywhere.

Glasgow was the first to benefit from this style of deal back in 2014, a big year for the city as it hosted the Commonwealth Games hosts. More than 10 local deals have been announced since, including Ayrshire, Argyll and Bute, five local authorities within Borderlands and Moray.

All manner of sectors have benefited, from innovative engineering and the Aerospace and Space programme in Ayrshire, to extending Borders Railway, researching dairy industry innovation and developing new visitor attractions in Alnwick. 

There’s big promises from these deal announcements of local investment, sustainable and eco-friendly adaptions and considerable job creation – so naturally the scheme has been welcomed, albeit after much debate of the fund total.

Although we’re talking big figures here, it’s worth noting that this is not an instant bank balance boost for the regions, but instead, it is access to an investment pot intended to be spread across 10 to 15 years.

For Falkirk’s latest cash injection of £90 million, this total is built up of £40 million each from UK and Scottish governments and an additional £10 million for green economy ambitions. This money is expected to secure jobs and support the chemical manufacturing industry at Grangemouth, Scotland’s largest industrial site.

Now more than ever, with the full scale of economic impact from Coronavirus unknown, job security is worth its weight in gold. However, local council leaders turned their nose up at the funding, suggesting it wasn’t enough for their ambitious plans to turn the region into a low carbon economy and that they would seek additional funding elsewhere to raise the estimated £238 million to enable extensive infrastructure improvements.

I think it’s a little naive to have expected such a large sum from the government alone, but it’s hoped that the agreed £90 million will work as a catalyst in driving forward economic growth, which all feeds into the bigger picture.

The Outer Hebrides, Orkney and the Western Isles have secured the most recent growth deal, with the region set to receive £50 million each from both the Scottish and UK governments.

The funding has arrived in perfect time for the Scottish Isles to help improve both existing and planned world-class visitor destinations, as the islands’ popularity soars due to the current staycation boom. It is also hoped that the funding will help island communities thrive as the new opportunities created will attract and retain young local talent.

Similarly to Falkirk, local council leaders for the Islands had hoped for more, with an aspirational figure of £300 million to be shared amongst all three Island groups. Still, £100 million is a large sum of money for these rural communities - it represents an award of almost three-times the per capita figure based on other Scottish growth deals agreed to date.

Trade Union Prospect has lashed out at the funding announcement to say the agreement is pointless if job opportunities are relocated from the islands. They are referring to the plans by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited to move air traffic control operations from Sumburgh in Shetland to Inverness.

Moving a central hub to Inverness has benefits for the city, investing locally and creating jobs but in turn it neglects the islands and removes a lifeline for such a rural community.

With a big drive throughout the nation for people to book staycations, shop local and support communities, these long term growth fund commitments can act as both a crutch and springboard for the recovery period and beyond of the Scottish economy.


Wing – 292 words

The hospitality sector breathed a much delayed sigh of relief as doors reopened to hungry Scots, desperate for a non-home cooked meal following months of lockdown.

We’ve all seen the pleas of restaurant owners and publicans through both social channels and traditional media urging the Scottish government to get bums on seats and cutlery back in hands to effectively save the industry and Scotland’s economy.

So, after months of demand and pre-emptive bookings, it’s actually incredibly disheartening to hear that a number of Scottish restaurants have been victim of a very different breed of ‘cancel culture’ since their doors opened.

Despite fully booked restaurants, there’s been plenty of reports across Scotland and the UK of customer no-shows, which can obviously be devastating to a sector that’s starving for support.

Glasgow’s Gin71 reported that just last week over a third of their customers simply did not show up on what was set to be a healthy day of business, with 100 tables reserved within the venue.

Similar problems were also reported in the capital, where the 56 North Bar and Restaurant saw promised customers vanish when push came to grub, with more than 100 customers failing to turn up over the first 10 days it had reopened.

The situation has become so ‘soul-destroying’ as the Scottish Licensed Trade Association put it, that questions are being raised on how businesses can prevent this from happening, such as charging deposits for bookings. With capacity already reduced, each and every solution seems rather lose-lose at the minute. 


The best course of action for all of us to do is simple. If you book to go out for a meal, make sure you do. You’re the one helping to put food on the table for hospitality staff.

Laugh – 127

Scottish jobs are undoubtedly at risk due to Covid, and there is going to be a challenging journey ahead to get through the economic challenges we are set to face.

Hoping to get the nation back on track though, an unlikely hero has stepped up to the platform – ScotRail.

The firm says that the cost of travel to interviews can often be a barrier for those looking to return to work.

So in an effort to help jobseekers, the Scottish rail giant is offering two free return tickets a month to anyone travelling for a job interview - a genius little move on its part.

It just goes to show that through these troubling times, businesses can do their part to help keep our nation chugging along.

Weep – 138 – Hogmanay

Let’s face it, 2020 hasn’t exactly been a stand-up year for Scotland so far. For those already looking ahead to 2021 and to start things anew, this past week had some further bad news, as Edinburgh’s iconic Hogmanay street party celebrations were, unsurprisingly, cancelled.

This announcement is a huge blow to the capital’s economy, especially after the cancellation of the Fringe and a non-existent tourist season drying up completely due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

New proposals for the festivities are expected to be revealed next month, which will see the event fall more in line with public health guidelines.

However, those hoping to end this dreary year in the spectacular fashion that we typically expect from one of the biggest New Year’s events across the globe will probably be left feeling more than a little sense of Hog-dismay.







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