The Secretary of State for Scotland has backed the “compelling” case for a Moray growth deal and said it could bring “significant economic benefit” to the region.
David Mundell yesterday met with local industry chiefs, Highland and Islands Enterprise officials and council leaders to learn more about the £200million proposal.
However, critics called on him and the UK Government to give a “cast-iron” commitment to the bid in order to safeguard the future of the region’s businesses.
The investment package, which would be similar to the city-region deals agreed for Aberdeen and Inverness last year, would involve 13 key projects to improve Moray as a place to live and work, including the introduction of a new gas pipeline and a business improvement centre.
Mr Mundell said: “There was a really positive presentation about what the deal could do for the region it terms of bringing about a significant economic benefit.
“There are so many great businesses in Moray, businesses that are world-leading and very important in Scotland and the UK, and they’re all keen to develop and ensure their workforce is as skilled as possible, and they want to make sure that Moray is an attractive place for potential employees to come and live.
“I absolutely back the principle of a Moray growth deal, I’m very positive about it and the professional approach which the council and their partners have taken – it’s a very compelling submission.
“This is a very professional proposal and I think we’re close to being a position to make a formal commitment, but there are some process issues to be resolved – and I’m confident they can be.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “David Mundell could have delivered a cast-iron commitment, rather than vague comments and warm words.
“However, the support in principle for a deal is better than nothing.
“The UK Government’s botched handling of the Brexit negotiations leaves the Moray economy very exposed and potentially facing significant setbacks.
“We must keep up the pressure to get this commitment as soon as possible, because the clock is ticking with Brexit around the corner – we need to instill confidence in the Moray economy.”