Businesses and academics across the north-east have welcomed the announcement of the Aberdeen City Region Deal – hailing it the catalyst for a prosperous future.
But there were also claims the investment amounted to a “slap in the face” and a “kick in the teeth” that would “mean nothing” to oil and gas workers.
ONE chairman Sir Ian Wood called the agreement a “really strong signal of confidence” in the future of the region from the UK and Scottish governments.
He said the announcement was only the “end of the beginning” for the proposed projects with major challenges ahead to translate the funding into economic growth and employment.
Liam Smyth, membership director at Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, also characterised the deal as a “necessary first step”.
He said the lack of government investment in the region’s infrastructure had been its “greatest competitive weakness”.
“The chamber has always believed that a strong public and private partnership is the key to supporting economic growth in the region,” he added.
Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, said the support was both “vital and extremely timely” given the pressure on the sector globally because of the collapse in the oil price.
She added: “It is being felt particularly forcefully on the UK Continental Shelf which is a mature basin with its own particular difficulties and cost challenges.
“The UKCS needs to restore its competitiveness and attractiveness as a place to do business. Without that, industry won’t be able to maximise recovery of resources – the billions of barrels of oil and gas that still remain in the North Sea.”
But SNP MP Kirsty Blackman, who represents Aberdeen North, pointed to the £300billion the industry had contributed to the UK Treasury over the years.
She said the city deal should have been the “light at the end of the tunnel for ordinary folk”, but dismissed the £125million from the UK Government as “not the game-changing amount we require”.
The former councillor added: “For Aberdeen, this is a slap in the face. For Aberdeen, this is a kick in the teeth. This is a total lack of recognition of the contribution we have made to the UK Treasury and a total lack of recognition of the needs of our city.”
Her comments were echoed by RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, who said the announcement would “mean nothing” to oil and gas workers.
And Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart accused the Tory government at Westminster of “over-promising and under-delivering”.
But Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said she was delighted to see the two governments working together, adding: “It means Aberdeen is being helped out when the area needs it most.”
Chiefs at both of the city’s universities also welcomed the news.
Aberdeen University principal Professor Sir Ian Diamond said he was excited at the prospect of implementing the plans and “helping to build a prosperous future for the region”.
Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, principal of Robert Gordon University, described the deal as a “huge opportunity to create a re-energised, innovation-driven Aberdeen city region”.
Ian Armstrong, north-east regional director at the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said investment in infrastructure in the region had never matched what the economy had generated.
He added: “This is starting to be put right and the City Region Deal is a further welcome step in the right direction.
“But it is only a first step – a higher commitment behind this new approach will be required by all levels of government and the private sector.”
Scottish Greens co-convener and north-east Holyrood candidate Maggie Chapman called for the funding to be focussed on turning Aberdeen into a global leader in oil and gas decommissioning and offshore renewables.
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald described £250million as an “extraordinarily small” figure.