Details of the long-awaited Edinburgh and South of Scotland City Region Deal were revealed to councillors last week – and it has been claimed that the Borders is being sold crumbs.
Over the course of the 15-year deal, £15m is heading to our region, from the £26.9m asked for, and it will “mainly be used” for a proposed business park at Tweedbank.
That project is now £25.7m short of the estimated cost of £58m, and Councillor Stuart Bell, leader of the SNP opposition group at Scottish Borders Council says it is “ unrealistic to see it going ahead as currently envisaged ... and that is the only project supported.”
Mr Bell, who was the council’s executive member for economic development before the local elections in May – and as such was involved in early negotiations on the City Region Deal – said he was surprised at the length of time it took to make the details on the investment coming to the Borders oublic.
He added: “After all the work and effort that Borders Council officers put into getting a City Region Deal it is deeply disappointing that all that comes to our region is the crumbs off the table, whilst Edinburgh gets most of the cake.”
He added: “What is disappointing in the paper is what is not said! An average of £1 million a year for 15 years for just one project of direct investment in developments at Tweedbank is a fraction of what we aspired to. This City Deal looks like a poor deal for the Borders when we spend £25m to £30 million each year on capital. Whilst there may be other benefits from the skills programme and support for housing; these details are still not clear. There was talk of support for Reston station, there was talk of a Borders textile innovation centre, to name just two specific projects that would have been of benefit to the wider Borders; but these all have disappeared.
However, council leader Shona Haslam defended the deal, saying: “No profile for the funding of the City Region Deal has been agreed yet; last week’s report to council made this clear. It is incorrect to assume £15m will be allocated as £1m per annum to the Borders over the next 15 years.
“The City Region Deal, alongside the proposed South of Scotland Enterprise Agency and the Borderlands initiative, has the potential for a transformative impact on the whole of the Scottish Borders.
“The City Region Deal will enable us to maximise the delivery of affordable housing, stimulate private sector investment and support local jobs, and will be a further step towards ensuring that our young people can see a future for themselves within the Scottish Borders. Key to this is the promotion of inclusive growth.
“A focus for us will be driving forward the development of the Central Borders Business Park in Tweedbank.
“This builds on the success of the Borders Railway and is yet another example of the council seeking to maximise the economic benefits that the railway provides.
“Through working with our local authority partners, the UK and Scottish governments, this deal will aim to unlock the potential of the our area accelerate growth in the Borders.”