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FEARS THAT MORAY could be left behind as Scotland’s largest regions benefit from special City Deal funding are being played down by local politicians.
The concerns follow a report authored by a group of influential members of the Scottish Parliament over the roll-out of City Region funding for Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow.
Holyrood’s local government committee are releasing a report today that says the funding schemes are mired in a confused and cluttered policy landscape, adding that the roll-out is too ‘top down’ leaving it unclear who programme managers are accountable to.
A total of £2.2billion is being pumped into the region deals in Scotland, with several regions – including Moray – having launched their own bids for funding. However, the report suggests that these regions could be disadvantaged and treated as the ‘poor cousins’.
However, while thanking the committee for showing an interest in city deals, Economy Secretary Keith Brown said they represented an important opportunity for inclusive economic growth.
A UK Government statement on the report said: “We welcome the committee’s scrutiny and agree that UK City Deals have brought, and continue to bring, significant investment into Scotland. This is supporting local priorities and strengthening the country’s economy by driving productivity, wages and growth.”
Moray Council leader George Alexander moved to reassure local residents that the local authority continue to work hard to deliver a deal for the region – and so does not fall behind its neighbours.
“We realised a year or two ago that Moray would potentially be at a serious disadvantage – and that is why we have been working with both governments on our own region deal,” he said, adding: “There have already been expressions of support from both Holyrood and Westminster so we hope to make some real progress this year.”
SNP Councillor Graham Leadbitter, joint leader of the opposition group in Moray, said that he too expected Moray to benefit from its hard work on the issue, saying: “It is too early to say if Moray would fall behind – but we want to get a deal as quickly as possible and that requires hard work here, in Westminster and Holyrood.”
The Holyrood committee have recommended that a clear timetable be published for the delivery of growth deals for such as Moray, insisting that the current system for selecting projects is not working in the manner it should.
The MSP’s say: “The process is too opaque, with not enough information being published to explain why certain projects were chosen. We are also of the view the process is too ‘top down’ at local authority level – despite some of the efforts to consult and engage with local people and businesses.”
Chairman of the Committee is Bob Dorris MSP, who added: “It is clear from the evidence we heard that there are significant issues with City Region Deals that must be addressed.
“There is the risk that some parts of Scotland could miss out or lose out on the benefits that these projects may bring – and that other initiatives are being treated as the poor cousin by comparison.”