Glaswegian infrastructure entered the debate on Scotland’s independence last week when the UK government pledged £500 million (€630 million; $857 million) to help boost the city’s economy and neighbouring regions.
The commitment, which comes as the battle between partisans of the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ vote heats up in anticipation of the September referendum, will go towards a £1.1 billion infrastructure fund to upgrade the region’s roads, bus networks, waterfronts and rail links, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander said in a statement.
The Scottish government answered by proposing to match the offer with another £500 million cheque a few hours later, bringing the combined cash pledged by both parties to £1 billion. Local authorities including Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire councils have pledged an additional £130m to the scheme.
The new infrastructure vehicle will be used to provide funding to 20 projects over the next 20 years, including £144.3 million for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link – a £210 million project first mooted in 2006 but which fell victim to austerity cuts in 2009. Other known commitments comprise £9.4 million for the A8 and M8 motorways; £78.3 million for the Clyde Waterfront and Renfrew Riverside; £44 million for the M77; and £113.9 million for the Govan and Clyde Waterfront regeneration.
The pledge is part of the UK government’s City Deal initiative, an agreement sealed between the Treasury and UK city regions to spread economic growth beyond the country’s South East. The programme has already been rolled out in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, but Glasgow is the first Scottish city to receive funding under the scheme.
Cameron predicted the City Deal investment would create 28,000 new jobs over the next two decades, and could eventually generate around £1.75 billion of economic growth in the city every year. He argued the cash promised to Glasgow was a good reason for keeping the UK together. “This vote of confidence in Glasgow will also help generate private sector money so businesses can flourish,” he said.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Westminster’s offer was little compared with the cash currently being injected by the Scottish government in the city’s infrastructure.
“Investment in the Commonwealth Games, the new Southern General Hospital, Fastlink and the Glasgow Subway improvements alone amount to a massive £1.5 billion in capital spend,” she said. “We have also provided capital funding of £1.1 billion to Glasgow City Council since 2008.”