Scotland's Agenda for Cities

Scotland's Agenda for Cities sets out the Scottish Government’s strategic framework for its future interaction with Scotland’s cities.

Setting the Context

Our vision is of:

A Scotland where our cities and their regions power Scotland's economy for the benefit of all.

Scotland's Economic Strategy

Creating a fairer society is not only a desirable goal in itself; it is essential to the sustained, long-term prosperity of the Scottish economy. Far from being conflicting priorities, delivering sustainable growth and addressing long-standing inequalities are mutually reinforcing objectives. Scotland's Economic Strategy provides a framework for how the Scottish Government will work with its partners across the public sector to achieve a fairer, more productive and cohesive Scotland. It provides the strategic bedrock for this refreshed Agenda, prioritising four areas:

  • maintaining our focus on increasing internationalisation
  • boosting investment
  • boosting innovation
  • supporting inclusive growth

Scotland's Economic Strategy aims to deliver more equal growth across the country - creating opportunities across Scotland's cities, towns, rural and island areas. With over a third of Scotland's total population living in the seven city local authority areas [1] and over half in the city regions [2] , it also acknowledges the significant impact of Scotland's cities on the national economy. The size and scale of Scotland's cities drives a concentration of business, and creates a dynamic environment for knowledge-sharing and innovation. Scotland's Economic Strategy also stresses the importance of cities and their regions working together as functional economic geographies.

"…the prosperity of any region and indeed nation relies to a great extent upon the growth, economic activity and dynamism of its cities."

Scotland's Economic Powerhouses: a focus on Scotland's city economies. Fraser of Allander Institute, University of Strathclyde, 2015

A strengthened focus on the city region

We have always recognised the importance of cities working in close partnership with their regions, and the city region is a key focus of our National Planning Framework. The advent of City Region Deals means cities are working with their regional partners in new ways and with fresh impetus, to deliver more effective regional economies. We welcome greater collaboration between local authorities, and also wider collaboration within and beyond the public sector which leads to improved coherence between the local authorities, businesses and bodies such as the Scottish Funding Council, Skills Development Scotland and the Enterprise Agencies ( Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise).

  • Cities and their surrounding regions will be a focus for investment
  • Cities will be exemplars of low carbon living and a focus for essential energy infrastructure
  • Quality of life and resilience in city regions will be supported by green infrastructure
  • Cities will be better connected and provide a gateway to the rest of the world

National Planning Framework 3, 2015

Our commitment to subsidiarity and local decision-making

Rebalancing power and achieving greater democratic equality are essential to creating a fairer and more prosperous Scotland. The people who live and work in Scotland's cities and their regions must be given opportunities to influence the society and economy around them. Our commitment to local decision-making will help shape our engagement with Scotland's cities, constantly seeking to support people to participate fully in delivering dynamic places where all can thrive.

An emerging EU Urban agenda

In 2016, for the first time, the European Union will agree an Urban Agenda, another sign of the global recognition of cities and city regions as drivers of growth. It will focus on better regulation, better funding and better knowledge exchange. Its rolling agenda of 12 priority themes will be developed through the formation of Urban Partnerships, involving experts from across Europe. By engaging with the EU, Scotland's cities and the Scottish Government have the opportunity to learn from other nations about what works in their city regions, and the potential to share good practice from Scotland.

Reaffirming the benefits of collaboration

In these days of financial constraints, the added value of collaboration is clear to see: cost effective use of time and resources, sharing talent, improving awareness and mutual understanding. The role for the Scottish Government is to provide strategic support, allowing cities and their regions to work closely with their partners and the people who live and work there to achieve shared economic success - the essence of community empowerment. Collaboration takes many forms and we support city-city, city-region and city-government relationships; each has a valid contribution to make alongside the national role that government must take.

The Scottish Cities Alliance - a maturing collaboration

Established in December 2011, the Scottish Cities Alliance is a unique collaboration between Scotland's seven cities and the Scottish Government, to bring investment and jobs to our cities and to deliver sustainable economic growth. This significant and ground-breaking collaboration has been watched and admired elsewhere in the UK and Europe. With the Scottish Government providing strategic leadership and the cities firmly in the driving seat, the Alliance has been able to speak powerfully with one voice, to benefit from the sharing of expertise and to secure a better place at the table in Europe and beyond. It has increased ambition, garnered successes and given impetus to innovation and fresh thinking. Although our cities will always compete with each other, through the work of the Alliance they have been able to identify areas such as investment promotion where collaboration offers greater opportunities. The current focus of the Alliance's work is on:

  • Infrastructure
  • Smart Cities
  • Low Carbon

The Scottish Cities Knowledge Centre has drawn together academic expertise to support the Alliance with a variety of events, workshops, seminars and briefing papers.

"Over the last ten years, Scotland's three largest cities [Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow] have demonstrated that they have the capability to attract investment from all over the world... Each of them has a differentiated proposition but they share transport infrastructure, world renowned universities and cultural and sporting facilities which are the envy of the rest of the UK. So the role of collaborations such as Scottish Cities Alliance will become increasingly important as the agenda for Scottish cities begins to move into the delivery stages."

Douglas Smith, Executive Director of CBRE Scotland, January 2016

Moving Forward

Scotland's Agenda for Cities sets out the Scottish Government's strategic framework for future interaction with Scotland's cities, reflecting changes in context since the original was published in 2011. It supports inclusive growth and effective place-making, supporting Scottish cities to play to their strengths, capitalise on investment opportunities and continue to make a strong positive contribution to Scotland's success.

The following four sections reflect the four priorities of Scotland's Economic Strategy. Against each of these priorities, we describe achievements to date and plans for the future.

Dundee infographic


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