A £100million funding package to spearhead Moray’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic while sparking a wave of new opportunities has been agreed.
The UK and Scottish governments this week backed the region’s growth deal bid, which has been christened “innovation from tradition”.
Officials believe the investment, which will be spent over the next 15 years, will treble in value once additional private sector backing is unlocked.
However, business leaders have stressed the need for the funding to be used “as soon as possible”.
Support for manufacturing industries, the creation of a “cultural quarter” in Elgin with a revamped Town Hall and Grant Lodge, a “revolution” of bus travel to support travel to and from rural communities and affordable housing backing have been included in the blueprint.
This is needed more than ever to help the local economy recover in the long-term from the Covid-19 crisis.”
Meanwhile, two new campuses for Moray College UHI will also be created, with one in Elgin to help start-up businesses grow and another near RAF Lossiemouth to nurture the next generation of aerospace talent as part of a highly skilled workforce.
Scottish Government minister Michael Matheson, UK Government minister David Duguid and Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter signed the heads of terms document yesterday in an online ceremony.
The landmark has committed both governments to pledging £32.5million each to the package while businesses cases are drawn up for the individual projects ahead of the deal being finalised.
Mr Leadbitter said: “This is needed more than ever to help the local economy recover in the long-term from the Covid-19 crisis.”
Mr Matheson added: “Investments through the deal will create new jobs, protect existing jobs and extend economic opportunities to communities, businesses and individuals across the region.
“At a time of such economic uncertainty and challenge, the projects and investment committed through the deal will be more important than ever.
“We will work with Moray Council over the coming months, to help them develop the projects to unlock investment and drive inclusive growth across the area as swiftly as possible.”
Growth and city region deals have been used across the country to deliver large public sector backing to support projects, which would otherwise be unaffordable, to lever in even more private sector investment.
It is estimated that the Moray package will deliver attract more than £200million of outside investment over the next 15 years while creating more than 450 jobs over various sectors.
A manufacturing research facility, which will be based near RAF Lossiemouth, will aim to develop innovative working methods to support some of the region’s biggest employers find more efficient ways of working.
Test beds will be used at Moray College UHI to experiment with digital health services to support a growing demand in the sector as well as rural communities.
Meanwhile, funding has been pledged to “accelerate” affordable housing developments with projects to unlock constrained sites, investigate accommodation in town centres and construction in rural locations.
Extra learning opportunities in the aviation sector are also expected to cement Moray’s reputation as a “centre of excellence” in the sector.
Iain Stewart, UK Government minister for Scotland, said: “Earlier this month I was delighted to announce we are investing £21m in the Moray Aerospace, Advanced Technology and Innovation Campus, which will create a pathway to skilled aviation engineering jobs for Moray’s residents.
“Working together with the Scottish Government and local partners, we will deliver the prosperity and opportunities that the people of Moray deserve.”
Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “This shows what can be achieved when our governments work together and it’s exactly the type of politics that I think people expect to see now and going forward.
“There are a range of ambitious projects as part of the deal and I’m pleased that one of the first to be taken forward will be the Moray Aerospace, Advanced Technology and Innovation Campus to be housed near RAF Lossiemouth.
“It is an ambitious and exciting development for Moray to be home to such a facility and I know it will contribute so much to the area going forward.”
Michael Urquhart, chairman of the Moray Growth Deal’s business assembly, added: “This is an important step in securing the long-term economic future of the area. Businesses across all sectors have suffered significantly during the current crisis and the growth deal will help to invigorate the recovery.
“All partners must now push to deliver this investment as soon as possible.”
Growth deal funding package in Moray aims to nurture change from young age
When the Moray Growth Deal was originally conceived more than four years ago it was envisaged as a means of addressing long-term problems.
They included concerns over a perceived brain drain of the region’s brightest talent to the central belt, a lack of opportunities to attract others and a low wage economy.
Officials hope the funding package can be used to stimulate a wave of highly-skilled employees, starting with children as young as three years old.
I and everyone else will be rolling up our sleeves to deliver this vision for Moray’s future prosperity.”
Investment will create indoor and outdoor learning opportunities to teach Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and “challenge cultural preconceptions”.
One focus will be encouraging an interest in those subjects among young girls to try and re-balance the local economy, which has the fifth biggest pay gap between males and females in Scotland, at 12.4%.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “These projects will undoubtedly help grow our local economy and help to create high value jobs in Moray, which will be more important than ever, as we try to recover from the economic impact of Covid-19.
“Moray has quite a low wage economy and the growth deal will create opportunities to not only build the local economy but also to diversify it, and ensure that we have jobs for the future here on our doorstep.”
Rhona Gunn, depute chief executive of Moray Council, hopes the deal will create more opportunities in the area away from male-dominated industries such as distilling and farming.
She said: “We still have much to do, and this work starts immediately to strengthen the business cases of each project and help shape the final outcomes.
“I and everyone else will be rolling up our sleeves to deliver this vision for Moray’s future prosperity.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston added: “The Moray growth deal can play a major role in helping the county rebound from the pandemic, get back on track and bring jobs and opportunities for our young people.
“It demonstrates initiative and imagination.”