The scale of the challenge from COVID-19 faced by Glasgow City Region, as for all UK city regions, is substantial. However, we are in a better position than most.
Thanks to our City Deal, last year’s gateway review success unlocked a further £250 million funding from the UK and Scottish governments - vital for supporting local jobs and businesses. We also witnessed further significant investment into the Region on the back of existing City Deal projects - all at a crucial time when we need to protect the economy.
Unsurprisingly COVID has brought delays to our £1 billion City Deal infrastructure Programme. But having completed an extensive review of its impact on our 21 infrastructure projects, we remain committed to them all, with an updated programme plan now in place for their delivery. In the coming months we’ll see considerable progress across many of these projects, including on the new iconic bridge over the M8 motorway in Glasgow, on a new manufacturing innovation district taking shape in Renfrewshire and in preparatory works at Ravenscraig – once one of Europe’s largest derelict sites.
With local businesses benefitting from over £100 million worth of City Deal contracts to date – you can appreciate how important the City Deal is for our economy and how important it is to get the programme moving again.
In terms of economic recovery – we have a strong plan in place, and one which is green. Work by our dedicated Intelligence Hub resource for economic research and insight, identified the key issues and emerging opportunities arising from COVID, helping us to shape the best solutions and bring forward new ideas to protect the Region. This includes proposals for a £5 billion home energy retrofit programme which will reduce fuel poverty, cut carbon emissions and create meaningful local jobs. This exciting initiative requires a sustained ten year investment which we estimate would support over 75,000 jobs and generate £4.4 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) across the Region.
Our ambitions are undimmed by COVID and in fact we have much to look forward to in the coming months.
We will continue to work with the UK and Scottish governments to accelerate, prioritise, and expand infrastructure capital investment, particularly on significant transformational projects. We want to see the River Clyde – the greatest untapped development opportunity in Western Europe - brought back into productive use through the Clyde Mission initiative. We want to see the development of a new Metro system linking the south-west of the City Region, including Glasgow Airport and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and we want to see growth in those sectors which will be at the forefront of economic recovery. Glasgow is now one of the most innovative City Regions in Europe with three emerging Innovation Districts – all catalysed by City Deal investment.
All of these projects will help to protect the Region, draw investment, create jobs and opportunities for local businesses and support a green recovery.
We’ll see a further boost to Financial Services which has been crucial to Glasgow and the wider Region’s rebirth and resilience in recent years, with the city alone a base to more than 50,000 jobs and much of our recent GVA growth from this sector. This build for the most significant inward investment ever made in Scotland will complete – the new Barclays campus in Glasgow. This will bring 2,500 new jobs and breathe new life into an area which despite its proximity to the city centre has suffered through de-industrialisation with the loss of much of its population and economic base.
Just this month we announced the creation of a £119 million new film and television studio in Glasgow that will deliver a huge boost to the city's dynamic screen and creative sectors.
And in November we host COP26, and we will go beyond delivering a successful conference to sharing and showcasing our knowledge and expertise to accelerate global action not only on cutting emissions, but also on adaptation. In the next few months we will publish the Regional Climate Adaption Strategy. We will also launch a Forestry and Woodland Strategy, the first in Scotland, which will dramatically increase the number of trees across the Region, boost our greenspace and support plans for carbon neutrality.
Our Intelligence Hub will shortly publish a Regional economic baseline – an update on the economic health of the Region, with comparisons to other Regions. This in hand with our Recovery Plan, will form the foundations of a new Regional Economic Strategy later in the year setting out our long term objectives to restart the Regional economy.
We recognise the challenge ahead of us, and while COVID has impacted us, it won’t stop us.
Kevin Rush is Director of Regional Economic Growth at Glasgow City Region