The UK Government are withholding consent for a city region deal for Tayside because of lessons learned about the “Inverness-centric” nature of the Highland deal, the Secretary of State for Scotland said last week.
David Mundell was speaking at an evidence-gathering session of the Scottish Affairs Committee. His comments were echoed by Jamie Stone, MP for Sutherland, Caithness and Easter Ross.
Questioned by committee chair Pete Wishart on the delay in signing off the £1.8 billion Tay Cities deal, Mr Mundell said there were still discussions to be had with Infrastructure Secretary Michael Matheson MSP on the exact sums to be contributed from the various finding partners.
He added: “The other factor in it is that I also want to see within the deal a geographic balance so that there is funding across the region. I am very supportive of some of the very innovative projects in Dundee, but we want to see projects in Perth and Kinross, Angus and north Fife.
“That is another criterion I have in mind when I sign the deals off, because one of the features that was a feedback from the Highland deal was the fact that there was a public view that the deal was very Inverness-centric, and you will all have heard Mr Stone, the member for Caithness, raise the issue, and Mr Blackford’s constituents, and councillors in Skye. So we are keen to ensure that, as well as the total funding package, we do have a degree of geographic balance.”
After last week’s meeting, Mr Stone told the Free Press: “It is surely not right that Inverness gets all the money. All talk of city deals causes something between a wry smile and a frown from anyone staying in the far north. We have seen no evidence whatsoever of any benefits at all outside Inverness’ 30 mph limit. This is a concern for many people. The Government’s money is not being spent in the spirit of what the deal was meant to achieve, and I am glad Mr Mundell has taken this onboard. Until we sort this out and make it fairer, it will continue to be a raw nerve for my constituents.”
Mr Stone added that he “couldn’t blame Inverness councillors and officials” for arranging the deal to deliver the maximum benefit for the city.