A £200 million bid from Moray to deliver an economic boom to the region is being prioritised by the UK Government due to its contribution to the country’s economy.
Every year whisky produced in Scotland contributes about £3 billion to Westminster’s accounts – with more than a quarter of that distilled on Speyside.
Now the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, believes it is time that a cut of the proceeds return to the area.
Yesterday, the minister toured Macallan’s new £140 million distillery near Craigellachie before announcing that negotiations would begin between the council, private sector and both UK and Scottish governments about the “exciting” growth deal bid.
Projects being put forward for backing include a gas pipeline to help the whisky industry expand, two new campuses for Moray College UHI as well as a “cultural quarter” in Elgin comprising a refurbished town hall, restored Grant Lodge and four-star hotel.
Ms Truss said: “We want all of Scotland to be covered by growth deals but it’s important we do Moray because it contains such an important industry for the UK economy. Whisky is our export superstar.”
The South West Norfolk MP added: “We are seeing huge investment in this area – the Macallan distillery is a great example of that – and what we need to see is more infrastructure to go with that.
“I represent a rural area myself and I think that connectivity is absolutely vital as well as getting the infrastructure in place so that business can expand and attract private sector investment.
“It sounds like Moray is going in the right direction.”
A total of 13 projects are being included in the bid. Two have already had business cases completed and yesterday’s announcement means the remaining 11 can be progressed to the final stages for consideration.
Warnings have been issued that without backing Moray could become the “poor cousin” of Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and the Highlands due to those areas already receiving similar deals.
Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, explained that the approved bid would contain projects that will help place the country at the forefront of innovation, technology and connectivity.
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Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “The growth deal is a great opportunity with exciting proposals that will make a huge difference to our area that will give Moray the tools it needs to boost growth and productivity in the region.
“We must make the most of this opportunity and so the hard work continues. Cooperation between the council and both Scottish and UK governments is essential to ensure the deal reaches its full potential.”
Progress on the growth deal for Moray has been welcomed as a “real boost” by the council and industry leaders.
The local authority has been leading the charge over the last two years by drawing up a list of projects to attract fresh investment and retain jobs in the region.
The deals are design to finance large-scale initiatives that would not ordinarily be able to be financed by councils by using Scottish and UK government cash to lever private investment.
Now the team behind the proposals are hoping the deal will be referenced in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s autumn statement next month, which would formally unlock funding for the deal.
The results of the bid are aimed at establishing Moray as an “ambitious, thriving and attractive” place to live and do business by 2030.
Yesterday, council leader Graham Leadbitter described the start of negotiations between the authority and both governments as a “milestone”.
He said: “It’s a real boost for the whole of Moray. The support for a deal is evident right across our communities, amongst business leaders and from all of the council’s political groups.”
Michael Urquhart, chairman of the Moray Growth Deal Business Assembly, which comprises industry leaders, said the business community stood ready to support the bid progress further.
He added: “We share an ambition to grow our economy and create sustainable opportunities for the people of Moray.”