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Election hopefuls told to make Aberdeen and north-east the ‘place to be’

The list of priorities includes demands for continued investment in Union Street, as well as towns and villages across Aberdeenshire.

Union Street.
The next government is being encouraged to offer more investment in Union Street. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

Union Street investment, new Buchan rail links, funding for new air routes and the region’s universities are among the key asks from an influential business organisation ahead of the general election.

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce set out their list of priorities they want every election candidate to endorse by July 4.

The organisation represents 1,300 businesses of every size, from a range of sectors, and is the biggest chamber by membership in Scotland.

Their policy priorities for the next UK government include:

1. City centre investment

The Our Union Street initiative, first set up in March 2023, is seen as crucial for the future whoever wins local constituencies in the election.

The projects range from filling empty Union Street units and sprucing up unsightly buildings, to a campaign marketing Aberdeen as the “place to be”.

Aberdeen City Council co-leaders Ian Yuill and Alex Nicoll with Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove in April 2023. Image: Supplied.

The UK Government put £20 million towards the regeneration of the former British Homes Stores site into a potentially game-changing new food market.

As those efforts start to bear fruit, the chamber wants Westminster to continue investing in the future of the city centre and towns across the region.

They also said they want to see local MPs “beating the drum” and “talking up the success” of the region.

2. Buchan rail links

All politicians elected to represent the region are being asked to get behind the Campaign for North East Rail.

This is working to reinstate rail links from Aberdeen to Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

These are the two largest towns in the UK furthest from the rail network, following the success of the Borders railway and the recent reopening of the Levenmouth rail link in Fife.

Jordan Jack and Craig Leuchars from Campaign for North East Rail. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

The chamber said a new rail link to Buchan would deliver a “huge economic boost” to the region for passengers and for freight, and reduce traffic, and road accidents.

The campaign secured £250,000 from the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Fund to carry out a major feasibility study, which was recently completed.

3. Funding for new air routes

Many European nations support their regional airports through the provision of route development funding – an “early priority”, according to the business group.

They say major investors in offshore renewables from Scandinavia, mainland Europe and further afield will require “reliable and regular services” direct to Aberdeen.

4. Support food and drink sector

The promises of Brexit have “not materialised” for the agriculture, fisheries and food and drink industries, the group claims.

They report “huge barriers” in getting products across borders to markets across the world and accessing the labour force the sector needs.

Brewdog co-founders Martin Dickie and James Watt. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson.

Businesses in the region are “beginning to fail” as a result despite the north-east boasting global success stories like Brewdog and Walkers shortbread.

The chamber’s manifesto says food security is fast becoming a “major challenge” for the UK and an “urgent focus” is required from government.

5. University funding

International student numbers have “fallen dramatically”, the group adds.

They want to reverse the decision to end dependants’ visas for most international students, which has had a “significant” impact.

Aberdeen University Principal George Boyne. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

6. GB Energy in Aberdeen

Should Labour win the keys to Number 10, the north-east business community want their new publicly-owned energy generation firm to be headquartered in Aberdeen.

The chamber is also calling for personnel from other major UK government departments to be based in a new civil service hub in Aberdeen city centre.

These would represent the Treasury, Business and Trade, Skills, and other key departments.