Aberdeen can lead Covid-19 recovery

This month saw the publication of the third annual Economic Policy Panel Report, an independent assessment of the state of Aberdeen’s economy.

Given the devastating financial impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, it wasn’t an easy read.

The authors explained that world output had shrunk by over a tenth in the first six months of the year. A dramatic dip in oil prices meant Aberdeen has been hit doubly hard, accounting for 35% of all Scottish redundancy notifications.

And yet the report offered reason to be optimistic.

The Council has taken steps to help buffer businesses and workers against the pandemic through our socio-economic rescue plan, and our Spaces for People project has allowed activity to safely resume in the city centre.

But what was especially comforting was the vote of confidence given by the panel to our long-term plans: becoming a beacon for renewable energy and improving the quality of life through investment in social and physical infrastructure.

Rather than recommending a sudden change of direction, the panel urged us to accelerate on the path we had set ourselves.

Cities across the world are competing to be attractive places to stay and part of that mix – especially for youngsters setting out in life – is having green credentials.

With our plans for an Energy Transition Zone to develop carbon capture technology as well as renewables, and a hydrogen hub to deliver the commercial-scale production of energy for heating as well as transport, Aberdeen certainly ticks that box.

Award-winning art gallery? Tick. Major conference and event complex? Tick. Gold standard new housing? Tick. Gigabit connectivity? Tick. Spectacular coastal and mountain scenery within an hour’s drive of the city? Tick. The prospect of new jobs in renewables? Tick.

Our rich heritage, unique architecture, magnificent parks and entrepreneurial flair adds further enticement.

The panel suggested that we produce a new Route Map for the transformation of Aberdeen the Place, re-imagining city centre public and private sector assets, including empty office, hotel and retail property, and that’s something we’re keen to do.

They also stressed the need to keep diversifying the economy, building on the progress made before the Covid-19 crisis, and in response to previous panel recommendations.

Again, that is taking place.

The City Region’s £40 million BioHub will move into its main construction phase at the Foresterhill Health Campus in the new year, doubling the size of high-growth life sciences company clusters.

The hub will provide support programmes and facilities for businesses and start-ups, forging international relationships and leveraging investment.

BioHub is just one of the industry innovation projects supported by the Aberdeen City Region Deal, a partnership between Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Opportunity North East (ONE), the UK Government, and the Scottish Government.

This has only been made possible because the wider public sector and private sector came together to invest in Aberdeen’s vision. 

And that was perhaps the major take away from the Economic Policy Panel Report.

Through continuing collaboration and co-production, between councils and government, the private and third sector, Aberdeen can lead the recovery from Covid-19 and remain central to the success of both the UK and Scottish economies for years to come.