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Call for creation of a north-east version of Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Queen Street aerial
Queen Street aerial

The Scottish Government is being urged to establish a new development agency for the north-east to help the region’s transition to a post-oil future.

The proposed “North East Scotland Enterprise” would be similar to bodies which already exist to promote growth and jobs in both the Highlands and islands, and the south of Scotland.

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are predicted to be among the areas to be hardest hit economically by the pandemic, with an associated downturn in the oil and gas industry creating a “double whammy” of blows.

Liberal Democrats in the region have now suggested that the special circumstances require the creation of a new agency, comparable to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Mike Rumbles MSP

John Waddell, the party’s former candidate in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, made the call in a blog posting, and it has now been backed by north-east MSP Mike Rumbles.

The MSP said: “There is a huge amount of untapped potential in the north-east, which is like no other part of Scotland.

“The plan that John has introduced will bring a fresh and tailored approach to reinvigorate our local economy.

“That is something that has been sorely lacking from both our government’s on Edinburgh and Westminster.”

Mr Waddell said that such a Scottish Government-backed agency would help the region transition its economy.

He acknowledged that Opportunity North East and others already had similar aims, but he insisted that “we need a body with more teeth and central government funding”.

Mr Waddell said: “The Scottish and UK governments have both benefited from the wealth of the north-east for decades, now we need their broad shoulders and pooled resources to invest in our future economy or risk immeasurable damage to our local and national economies.

“A North East Scotland Enterprise could prioritise its investment into restructuring our economy for the future and to save us from brain drain and a stagnating economy.

John Waddell

“Europe’s oil and gas capital can and should become Europe’s Energy Capital, with decades of experience in engineering, energy and development.

“We must future-proof our economy, provide for the next generation, and we need an institution capable of delivering that.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are vigorously supporting the north-east Scotland economy through a range of measures, including £125 million as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal plus an additional £254 million to facilitate a more significant step change to the region’s economy.

“The deal supports Aberdeen’s position as a global oil and gas hub, paving the way for significant investment in innovation, digital connectivity and infrastructure to help further economic diversification.

“We have already delivered the £745 million Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and £49.5 million is being invested in the A92/A96 Haudagain Improvement.

Work under way as part of plans to ease congestion at the Haudagain roundabout in Aberdeen.

“This investment helps the construction sector, which in turn leads to wider economic growth – with every additional £100 million of capital spending estimated to support around 800 jobs across the economy.

“Importantly for the north-east, our Restart the Economy capital stimulus package of £230 million includes a £62 million Energy Transition Fund which will invest in projects that will benefit SMEs in the broader energy supply chain.

“And despite cuts to Scotland’s budget by the UK Government, Aberdeenshire and the north-east have received increased funding in recent years as a result of Scottish Government’s budget commitments.”