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National Planning Framework for Scotland



34. Aberdeen has established itself as the oil capital of Europe and has a GDP 30% above the Scottish average. Full employment, high incomes and good urban and rural environments combine to provide a good quality of life for much of the population in the city and surrounding region. However, traditional sectors of the economy such as fish processing and food are under pressure, parts of the city require restructuring and small but persistent pockets of deprivation remain. There is also a danger that today's success may inhibit future performance. High house prices, traffic congestion and problems in delivering land for development could discourage the establishment of new businesses.

35. In Dundee, many traditional industries have had difficulties in adapting to new technologies and markets. This has led to a fall in population, high unemployment, social deprivation, and significant areas of vacant and derelict land. However, a major improvement in external image has been achieved through revitalisation of the city centre, with long-term investment in retail and cultural facilities and the public realm. A new economy is emerging in the form of clusters at the leading edge of biotechnology, medical science and multi-media software development. Dundee's large student population contributes to an atmosphere of vibrancy and diversity, but the city still loses too many of its young people in their 20s.

36. Inverness is the main administrative, medical, retail and leisure centre for the Highlands. It has grown a lot in recent years, its population increasing by a third since the 1970s. The environmental resources of the Highlands support a substantial tourism industry and make Inverness a city able to offer a high quality of life. Sectors such as retailing, public administration and business services have expanded significantly. However, the city's economic base remains relatively narrow and there is a need to diversify and attract a wider range of high quality jobs.


37. Stirling was granted city status in 2002. Its accessibility and pleasant urban environment make it an attractive location and its population is growing. Key assets include a lively town centre, an important historic core, which is attracting growing numbers of visitors, and its modern campus university. However, significant pockets of disadvantage persist in some of the city's peripheral housing areas.

38. While the cities are key drivers of the economy, many Scots live in large, medium and small towns. Some have suffered a loss of vitality in recent times as a result of the decline of traditional industries, changing patterns of retailing and the centralisation of public administration and other services. Others, like Perth, have been more vibrant. Areas which have been reliant on a narrow range of business and industry have found themselves vulnerable to economic change. Examples include the former mining towns in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, Borders mill towns and North-East fishing ports. In North and East Ayrshire, Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire the decline in manufacturing has not been compensated by new employment in the service sectors. Some towns in these areas have many of the social and environmental problems more usually associated with cities.

39. Scotland's rural areas are experiencing major structural changes with the continuing decline of farming and fishing accompanied by an expansion of the service sector, diversification into new activities and the growth of the leisure economy. Since the mid-1960s, parts of rural Scotland such as Aberdeenshire and many parts of the Highlands and Islands have seen a growth in population and jobs. The sharp fall in the value of timber in the late 1990s has adversely affected the economic viability of forestry, particularly in the remoter West. Forest management practice is now placing greater emphasis on social and environmental needs.


40. The economic fortunes of the Highlands and Islands have turned round remarkably, following a century or more of decline. The population has grown by around 20% and the number of people at work has gone up by nearly 50% over the last 30 years. The Moray Firth area has experienced substantial growth, while Orkney and Shetland have benefited from oil-related activity. The expansion of salmon farming, tourism, food processing, small-scale manufacturing and service provision has contributed to growth in areas such as Skye, Mull, Arran, Wester Ross, Ardnamurchan and Mid Argyll. The whisky industry continues to make an important contribution to the economy on Speyside and in parts of the West Highlands. Lerwick, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Thurso, Fort William, Oban and Lochgilphead have grown as their roles as service centres have expanded. Early investment in new communications technologies has led to the creation of some 3,500 jobs in the teleservice sector. Progress has not, however, been universal. Some of the remoter areas such as the Western Isles and parts of Sutherland and Caithness continue to decline.

41. The broad changes taking place in the rural economy are also evident in the South of Scotland, though improvements in economic fortunes have generally been less dramatic. While the Borders have seen an increase in exports in the paper, publishing and electronics sectors, the traditional industries of textiles and food processing remain significant components of the economy. Livestock farming was badly affected by the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001-02 and the restrictions imposed to prevent its spread had an adverse, if temporary, impact on the tourism and leisure economy. Dumfries and Galloway produces 27% of Scotland's sawn wood from its substantial areas of plantation forestry. Average earnings in the South of Scotland remain well below the national average and significant numbers of Borders residents commute to work in the Edinburgh area.