Glasgow City Region launches a new economic strategy for the Region

Wednesday, 8 December, 2021

A new economic strategy launched for Glasgow City Region - including East Dunbartonshire - is set to have a profound impact on wider public sector policy, decision-making and spend over the next ten years for 1.8 million residents and 50,000 arrow point towards the clouds with start wrote in it

The strategy sets the approach for how the Region will weather current and future key challenges, some of which are expected to completely disrupt our way of life - including the impact of COVID-19, the climate emergency and unprecedented technological advances. 

The approach is a first in that it has been developed and endorsed not only by the Region’s eight councils, but by government and wider public sector agencies including Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland - all of which will be instrumental in its delivery. 

The strategy, developed by the Region’s Intelligence Hub, is the result of months of extensive research with input from partners across the councils, government agencies, local universities, and the business and third sectors. It is underpinned by an in-depth analysis of the Region’s strengths and the current and future challenges faced - collectively and individually by the eight council areas of Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire. 

Councillor Andrew Polson, Joint Leader of East Dunbartonshire Council and Chair of the Land Use and Sustainability Portfolio for Glasgow City Region, said:

"The new strategy is a game changer - aiming to tackle key issues for the Region, including climate change, inequality, productivity, and improving skills and job prospects.

"We will do all we can, working with a range of partners, to help ensure we are able to embrace every opportunity, as well as cope with any adversity - enhancing local lives and the economy in the years ahead."

Chair of the Glasgow City Region Cabinet and Leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken said: 

“Over the next ten years, the Glasgow City Region economy will be increasingly shaped by incredible technological advancement and the imperative to achieve net zero.  There will be challenges but also generational opportunities. 

"Our new Regional Economic Strategy recognises where our strengths lie, how we compare to other major Regions and the key issues faced collectively by the Region and its eight partner councils.   

"It brings clarity to our priorities and informs decision-making around issues of place, skills and health, and how to achieve net zero in a way which also delivers inclusivity, growth and prosperity.” 

Three key Regional challenges are woven through the strategy:

•    The imperative to address the climate emergency: This includes managing the risk of rising sea levels, flooding, coastal erosion and heatwaves; supporting businesses to address climate action to improve their efficiency, productivity and competitiveness; and ensuring the transition to net zero is fair and equitable, particularly as the most deprived communities are likely to be impacted most from climate change. This will involve work to look at skills, both to support people to access the job opportunities arising from the net zero, climate resilient shift, and those working in industries where jobs may be affected. 
•    The need to create a much more inclusive economy. With the Region home to some of the most deprived communities in Scotland, actions need to tackle the underlying drivers such as rising underemployment, economic activity due to ill health and low employment rates for specific groups. 
•    The long-standing issue of low productivity has constrained the local economy. Actions will need to address growing the number of businesses per capital and business Research and Development spend, both of which need to increase. 

A new vision sets out the partners’ commitment to address these challenges:  

By 2030, Glasgow City Region will have the most Innovative, Inclusive and Resilient Economy in the UK. 

Opportunities have also been identified which could transform the Region. These include a focus on the Foundational Economy and High Growth sectors and addressing Climate Change.

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 the Glasgow City Region partnership and will continue to support their goals through its regional investments.  

"We are delivering more than £1.7 billion for projects across Scotland, helping to level up communities."

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.

“The Scottish Government supports the Strategy’s mission to advance a just transition to net zero, creating a more inclusive economy focused on improving productivity and wellbeing.  

“This Strategy showcases what can be achieved when a region works together as a partnership, coming together to focus on recovery from the pandemic and the impact of Brexit. I have every faith that regional partners will continue to work together to deliver a positive impact over the next decade as we help create a fair and prosperous economy for all.”    

In delivering the strategy, a series of programmes will be taken forward, some of which are already underway and some which require to be further developed. A number of exciting initiatives are anticipated in the coming months including proposals to establish a Regional investment fund; and programmes for Fair and Healthy Work; Green Business Support; a Green Demonstrator for electric vehicle charging; a Future Towns and City initiative which will use the latest data technology to understand shifting demands on our town centres to support policy development; and finally a Foundational Economy pilot to support growth and innovation in a sector which makes up 60% of the Region’s jobs and 40% of its businesses. (See notes for further detail on each of these). 

Work will now take place by the City Region to develop a detailed action plan over the next six months which will assign ownership of actions across the member councils and wider partnership, with indicative costs, and framework for monitoring and evaluation. 

A copy of the strategy is available.

Some initiatives from the new Regional Economic Strategy expected in the coming months

•    Proposals to establish a new Regional investment fund that will provide seed funding for key development projects – such as the reuse of vacant and derelict land – and for emerging programmes. 
•    Fair and Healthy Work: Good health and wellbeing are vital to a productive economy. But economic inactivity due to ill-health has been a persistent problem for the Region. An estimated 30.7% of our economically inactive residents are excluded from work due to health conditions. The pandemic has hit people with underlying health conditions the hardest. And emerging evidence is showing more people falling out of work because of it.  Through our new Fair and Healthy Work programme we will work with employers to keep people suffering from health issued in employment.
•    Green Business Support: Recent research shows that our local businesses are keen to play their role in the transition to net zero. But an overwhelming number of our companies are of a small and medium size. We will work across the partnership to provide local businesses with the expert advice, whether on production, supply chains, transport or building stock, that will be essential in helping the Region become net zero.
•    Green Demonstrator: The Region was recently showcased at COP26.  This gave us the chance to highlight some of our incredible projects such as the pioneering district heating system at Clydebank. We will continue to create innovative projects that are essential to the Region becoming net zero, whilst also providing social and economic benefits to local communities. Our first Green Demonstrator project will focus on a Regional approach to electrical vehicle charging.
•    Future Towns and City programme:  The pandemic has transformed our cities and town centres by changing where we work and how we consume. It is not yet clear how much of these changes will remain. Our Intelligence Hub will work with partners including the Urban Big Data Centre, to use market intelligence and the latest data technology to help us understand shifting demands and allow Regional policy makers to create programmes to support our city and town centres based on clear real time evidence of how and when they are being used.   
Foundational Economy pilot: The Foundational Economy is made up of the nation’s essential physical infrastructure, operating infrastructure and public services, including key workers. It is a driver of wellbeing across the Region’s communities. Over 60% of jobs and 40% of businesses within Glasgow City Region are within the Foundational Economy, and it covers a significant proportion of the Region’s low paid jobs. We will create a fund to support the most innovative businesses within the Foundational Economy to transform how they operate, supporting growth and ultimately leading to higher wages. Focusing on productivity growth in the Foundational Economy offers a way to overcome some of the challenges in ensuring economic growth is inclusive.

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