As 2021 draws to a close the Scottish Cities Alliance, the unique collaboration of Scotland’s seven cities and the Scottish Government working together to promote the country’s great economic potential, is looking back over a successful year of activity amidst the challenges presented by the pandemic and the impact this continues to have on our cities and regions.
The Alliance continues to enhance the attractiveness of Scotland’s cities as smart and sustainable destinations for investment via its four workstreams. Through its world-leading £48 million “Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City” ERDF Programme partners seek to enhance Smart City activity to accelerate and transform the delivery of city services and make Scotland’s cities more attractive, liveable and resilient. In 2021 our Smart City projects included the delivery of a Smart Infrastructure project on Intelligent Street Lighting completed in Glasgow – joining similar projects previously completed in Aberdeen and Perth and the Famous Grouse Ideas Centre in Perth which won the Regeneration Project of the Year award at the Scottish Property Awards in 2021.
As part of the Hydrogen workstream the Alliance supported the delivery of the Hydrogen Scotland Education Programme in partnership with Arcola Energy, Scottish Power, ITM Power and the Hydrogen Accelerator to inspire the next generation of renewable energy engineers who can fulfil Scotland’s ambitions in becoming a leader in adopting hydrogen technology.
The Alliance’s Policy work this year saw the cities working closely with the Scottish Government to support the newly established City Centre Recovery Taskforce focused on post-pandemic city centre recovery. The Alliance continued working with cities, Scottish Government and national agencies on the delivery of the Transition to Net Zero Carbon Action Plan including establishing a Net Zero peer-to-peer network to aid knowledge sharing and best practice and delivering a programme of Carbon Literacy Training for elected members in partnership with the Improvement Service. Work is now underway to address the technological change challenge following discussions with Prof Mark Logan, Codebase, Codeclan and Scottish Government Digital Directorate.
In response to the pandemic the Alliance moved its Investment Promotion activity online at the start of 2021, delivering 2 bespoke virtual events on the topics of ‘Healthy Cities,’ and ‘Towards Affordable Cities’ with City Leaders featuring as key speakers across the series, alongside private sector panellists with expertise in a range of fields. The Alliance also delivered an online investment roundtable in June on ‘Investing in cities with purpose – creating net zero urban centres’ with speakers including the City Leaders of Aberdeen and Dundee. The event was attended by a global audience of investors and developers. The Alliance secured multiple speaking opportunities for elected members including the Alliance’s Chair Cllr Alexander’s participation in a panel on smart cities and hydrogen as part of Swisspower’s Decarbonising Cities event in Geneva. For the first time ever all 7 city leaders participated in a programme of investments events developed by the SCA, SDI and Scotland House London centred around the London Real Estate Forum in September. The Alliance held a breakfast roundtable and a lunch where all 7 City Leaders presented in-person the Scottish cities’ investment offering to investors and developers with an interest in Scotland.
A review of 2021 would be incomplete without noting Glasgow’s hosting of COP26 in November. The conference truly put Glasgow and Scotland in the spotlight and afforded the Alliance team as well as City Leaders the opportunity to participate in a number of high-profile sessions. There were opportunities to engage with exhibitors in the Green Zone, and to attend events hosted by the World Economic Forum and Accenture, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, NatWest Group, Savills, UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), and Connected Cities Catapult, among others, where excellent conversations were had about the carbon challenge, green finance, the case for retrofit, and the investment and development opportunities available to Scotland on the journey to Net Zero. To learn more about our activities during COP26 see here and here.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic this year, the Alliance once again highlighted the benefits of collaborative working between all seven city local authorities and the Scottish Government, which provides the opportunity for knowledge-sharing and delivery of optimal outcomes for all partners.
We would like to wish our partners, colleagues and friends a happy and healthy festive season and we look forward to continuing to promote Scotland’s great economic potential together in 2022.