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Inverness & Highland City Region Deal - Cards on the Table

Inverness & Highland City Region Deal - Cards on the Table

There was a great turnout at the City Region Deal event in Inverness yesterday morning – demonstrating a real appetite to hear more about the opportunities that the Deal could bring to the Inverness city region. This was an event which Burness Paull hosted, in partnership with North Highland Initiative, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry and Inverness Chamber of Commerce – as a way of raising awareness of the key features of the Deal, and helping to stimulate debate on how to maximise prospects for success. The level of private sector investment envisaged by the Deal is ambitious - £800m – and that cannot be achieved unless the right moves are made to create a climate of confidence for long-term investment. 
Every City Region Deal has its own focus. For this one, it seems to me that the fundamental mission is to build on the success to date and lift the Inverness City Region onto the next level, as a city-region able to compete successfully with others across the UK – raising its profile and standing as a major contributor to the economy of Scotland and the UK. That was a theme that I was keen to emphasise in my own presentation – the need to view the Deal as something much more than just a collection of projects; and to recognise the key requirement to think strategically about how best to generate the economic impacts that are required to sustain the Deal. 
The strategic piece is really important and over coming months it would be good to see the underlying strategy (including some further detail on tourism, city centre and other strands) being clearly articulated and publicised, so that everyone involved – and particularly private sector businesses – can see the wider picture and develop their own particular business and investment strategies in light of that. Another key point is that the Deal must not displace other opportunities; it should serve as a catalyst for projects across a broader spectrum and also as an opportunity for wider dialogue with Scottish and UK governments on a range of further interventions that could operate for the benefit of the city-region. 
The quality of the subsequent presentations was very high. Stuart Black (Director of Planning and Development, Highland Council) gave a comprehensive overview of the Deal, with an outline of the governance framework as well as the key projects falling under each of the main strands. Donna Chisholm (Regional Head of Sectors Innovation & Programmes, Highlands and Islands Enterprise) focused on the Northern Innovation hub and the opportunities which it could unlock – particularly for SMEs and also as part of a range of measures directed towards reversing the drift of talent and investment to the Central Belt. That last point, to my mind, is a really critical one – if we can solve that long-standing problem, we will have put in place a forward-looking local economy that includes additional strands of activity anchored in new technologies and higher skills, as well as increased resilience for more traditional areas such as tourism and food & drink. 
The Q&A session, not unexpectedly, highlighted a number of thorny issues that the Deal will not, in itself, wholly solve. But again, there is a need – as emphasised by the speakers – to focus on the positives, including the quality of the environment; and use the Deal as a stimulus for more creative thinking. The North Coast 500 is a shining example of how a new idea, skilfully played into social media, can capture the imagination at international scale - translating into very significant impacts for local businesses. 
The City Region Deal has dealt the Inverness city region a really good hand and the key ingredients of that are now clear. The challenge now – for public, private and third sectors, working in collaboration - is how to play that hand using it (and importantly the other cards in the pack) to deliver a winning strategy. 

There was a great turnout at the City Region Deal event in Inverness yesterday morning – demonstrating a real appetite to hear more about the opportunities that the Deal could bring to the Inverness city region. This was an event which Burness Paull hosted, in partnership with North Highland Initiative, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry and Inverness Chamber of Commerce – as a way of raising awareness of the key features of the Deal, and helping to stimulate debate on how to maximise prospects for success. The level of private sector investment envisaged by the Deal is ambitious - £800m – and that cannot be achieved unless the right moves are made to create a climate of confidence for long-term investment.

Every City Region Deal has its own focus. For this one, it seems to me that the fundamental mission is to build on the success to date and lift the Inverness City Region onto the next level, as a city-region able to compete successfully with others across the UK – raising its profile and standing as a major contributor to the economy of Scotland and the UK. That was a theme that I was keen to emphasise in my own presentation – the need to view the Deal as something much more than just a collection of projects; and to recognise the key requirement to think strategically about how best to generate the economic impacts that are required to sustain the Deal.

The strategic piece is really important and over coming months it would be good to see the underlying strategy (including some further detail on tourism, city centre and other strands) being clearly articulated and publicised, so that everyone involved – and particularly private sector businesses – can see the wider picture and develop their own particular business and investment strategies in light of that. Another key point is that the Deal must not displace other opportunities; it should serve as a catalyst for projects across a broader spectrum and also as an opportunity for wider dialogue with Scottish and UK governments on a range of further interventions that could operate for the benefit of the city-region.

The quality of the subsequent presentations was very high. Stuart Black (Director of Planning and Development, Highland Council) gave a comprehensive overview of the Deal, with an outline of the governance framework as well as the key projects falling under each of the main strands. Donna Chisholm (Regional Head of Sectors Innovation & Programmes, Highlands and Islands Enterprise) focused on the Northern Innovation hub and the opportunities which it could unlock – particularly for SMEs and also as part of a range of measures directed towards reversing the drift of talent and investment to the Central Belt. That last point, to my mind, is a really critical one – if we can solve that long-standing problem, we will have put in place a forward-looking local economy that includes additional strands of activity anchored in new technologies and higher skills, as well as increased resilience for more traditional areas such as tourism and food & drink.

The Q&A session, not unexpectedly, highlighted a number of thorny issues that the Deal will not, in itself, wholly solve. But again, there is a need – as emphasised by the speakers – to focus on the positives, including the quality of the environment; and use the Deal as a stimulus for more creative thinking. The North Coast 500 is a shining example of how a new idea, skilfully played into social media, can capture the imagination at international scale - translating into very significant impacts for local businesses.

The City Region Deal has dealt the Inverness city region a really good hand and the key ingredients of that are now clear. The challenge now – for public, private and third sectors, working in collaboration - is how to play that hand using it (and importantly the other cards in the pack) to deliver a winning strategy. 

Stephen Phillips
Partner

Burness admin