Comment: City to city: deal must be fair

editorial image

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the big “City Deal”. This £1.13bn package for Glasgow and surrounding areas involves £500m each from the Scottish and UK Governments with a further £130m from local councils.

The aim is to improve infrastructure, create thousands of construction jobs and encourage private sector investment.

So far, so good.

But on closer inspection it looks like this deal will miss a couple of pretty important tricks.

Firstly, it’s not at all clear how these projects will create a local economy which is greener and fairer.

The kind of investment our communities need must be based on a vision of what a more sustainable economy looks like decades ahead.

We need skilled, long-term jobs to close the huge gap in income and health inequalities in our city.

We need jobs for younger people and for those who need help to get back into work.

If we use this investment for more roads and out-of-town shopping centres we will simply lock ourselves into an economy which doesn’t work well now and won’t last for the long term either.

A major driver of any investment must be the opportunity to create a truly low-carbon economy.

Next week we’ll learn if Scotland has missed its fourth annual climate change target in a row.

The need for investment in public transport, walking and cycling, and technology which allows people to work at home has never been greater.

There’s also the huge opportunity to create jobs in energy conservation in the housing stock, which would save people money from their bills too.

And secondly, the benefits of this deal need to be spread throughout the Glasgow region.

Most of the £1.13bn will apparently go on a handful of projects, with a big focus on the city centre and its shopping and finance districts, the Clyde waterfront and the west end.

That’s great for those areas but it doesn’t appear that the southside will benefit.

That is a missed opportunity.

The southside could do with, at least, resurfaced streets and pavements, and segregated cycle lanes.

Overall, there is an assumption that this deal will help create more wealth, resulting in higher tax receipts to pay back these targeted investments.

It’s a big assumption, and we’d be wise not to allow it to drown out the need for continued investment in all our communities.

Patrick Harvie is a Green MSP for Glasgow and a Shawlands resident.

He can be contacted at his constituency office:

Room 4/2, 52 St Enoch Square, Glasgow G1 4AA

Phone: 0141 248 3850

patrick.harvie.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Twitter: @patrickharvie