GEORGIANA VARNA  
space shaper, place maker, policy advisor

Empowering Scotland's Cities in a climate of Devolution 

   
In the context of increase devolution of powers from London to Edinburgh, and on the background of the lightning fast growth of the SNP (Scottish National Party), Scotland is going through a period of fundamental change. In her previous function as Minister for Cities, the current FM, Nicola Sturgeon, raised the issue of the importance of urban areas for the entire country and the need for improving them. Subsequently, An Agenda for Cities was published in 2011 ( refreshed in 2016) , which established the Scottish Cities Alliance, a partnership between the 7 cities of Scotland, The Scottish Government and academia. The latter was represented by the newly formed Scottish Cities Knowledge Centre (SCKC), initially a collaborative endeavor between the University of St Andrews and University of Glasgow and later fully based in Glasgow.

This work draws from my experience, as one of the core members of staff of SCKC between 2013 and 2017. It is a collaborative project with my former colleague,   Prof Donald Houston , that focuses on answering two main questions:
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  • What is the relationship and how is it played out between territorial politics\territorial governance and the cities agenda in Scotland?


  • What are the rationales driving the movement towards cities autonomy in Scotland?
    
    
Aberdeen City Region Deal

The research methodology involved an in-depth 8-month research project was based on international literature review, document analysis of key policy documents, interviews with cities’ leaders and members of the Scottish Government and workshops with city leaders and Chief Executives. In the past months, all local authorities that contain one of the core 7 cities, have signed off  are about to finalise City Deals with the UK & Scottish Governments; these represent important steps towards more devolution of powers to LAs and cities in Scotland. We are preparing a paper at the moment where we show how, at this important moment in the history of Scotland, the Cities Agenda is intersecting the process of devolution, presenting new complex socio-economic landscapes which politicians and policy makers need to be aware of. 

   
   
What we ask of the Scottish Government:

  • 􏰀Control over decisions pertaining to key regional infrastructure, including transport, water,skills, health and local economic development;
  • Passing on to local areas all of Non-Domestic Rates and a proportion of the fiscal retention
        to be granted to the Scottish Parliament by the Scotland Bill;
  • 􏰀Freedom to raise local taxes.

What we ask of the UK Government:
  • 􏰀Commitment to the continuation of City Deal ‘earn-back’ style funding in Scotland.

What we will deliver in return:
  • 􏰀Greater economic growth and productivity across city-regions;
  • 􏰀A more co-ordinated place-based approach to development;
  • 􏰀Greater community involvement in shaping localities, including community influence over public budget spending;
  • 􏰀Greater participation in local democracy;
  • 􏰀Reduced inequality.
From the document ​Delivering Prosperity and Equality for Scotland's Seven Cities (SCA, 2016)