By Dr David Waite, Research Associate within Policy Scotland and Urban Studies. Dr Waite provides research support to the Independent Commission advising the Glasgow City-region City Deal.
In this article David Waite analyses the implications of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, published on 1 September 2020, which sets out the actions the Government will take in the coming year and beyond, and includes the legislative programme for the next parliamentary year.
The headline commitments related to economic development are numerous but can be summarised as follows (from pg 8):
- “National Transition Training Fund to provide support to 10,000 people facing redundancy and unemployment”
- “Scottish Youth Guarantee to ensure every young person has the opportunity of work, education, or training”
- “Set out the first tranche of our £2 billion Low Carbon Fund, including: helping to secure investment of £1.6 billion over the next Parliament in heat and energy efficiency in our homes and buildings, delivering a £100 million Green Jobs Fund, and providing £60 million for industrial decarbonisation”
- “Inward Investment Plan to create 100,000 high value jobs …”
- “Complete the delivery of 50,000 affordable homes as quickly as it is safe to do so, and set out a 20 year vision for energy efficient, zero carbon housing, with access to outdoor space, transport links, digital connectivity and community services”
- “Lock in the positive changes in active travel by committing £500 million for transformational infrastructure”
- “Bring 50,000 people into the digital world through Connecting Scotland and create a World‑Class Digital Eco‑system in Scotland”
Support is given in the Programme for Government (PfG) (pg 32) for the Logan Review – the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review – with all recommendations to be adopted. Notable here is the commitment to “tech scalers”1 which will be rolled out across the country2. The report has been praised by many3 and has the merit of presenting a practical business-led view of the tech ecosystem. In some ways, this may be seen as a narrower Scottish version of the industrial strategy favoured south of the border. The following points may warrant reflection, however, in the city-region context:
- Are there risks of building “cathedrals in the desert” through the tech-scalers approach?4 – this was a criticism levelled at the Technium system in Wales whereby local contexts lacked the capabilities to support and build on the incubation investments. The Technium initiative, based on transformational aspirations for innovation outputs and substantial public funding, saw limited success. At the same time, more recent attempts at incubation – such as the Alacrity model in Canada and Wales – have indicated some promise5.
- The notion of the “tipping point” is central to the logic of the review and the recommendations made. This is logical in that the concentration of any economic mass needs to be at a certain size or scale whereby cumulative growth occurs, and whereby the exit of one or two players from the ecosystem would not significantly diminish the overall ecosystem (and that it can self-renew etc)6. However, how would we know we are at the required scale, and how would we know when policy needs to start and stop?7 These are thorny issues, and a general, related puzzle expressed in the agglomeration literature – which refers to the scale of activity in urban contexts – notes that it is very difficult to determine why some concentrations flourish and why others “wither on the vine”.8
- A lot of this looks like a return to cluster policy (a key pillar for Scottish Enterprise a while ago). The good thing here, in committing to this approach, is that much can be picked up on (and learnt) from previous initiatives.
The points above should be read as possible caveats for policy implementation rather than a dismissal of the recommendations per se. For the city-region, of course, localised opportunities (and associated funding through this approach) need to be considered outwith concerns for overall national gain. Indeed, if five scalers are to be established by 2021/2022 – as the Programme for Government notes (pg32) – the Glasgow City-region will likely want to be designated/granted at least one of these9.
Twenty-minute neighbourhoods are given significant profile in the Programme for Government (pgs 5, 14 and 58) and appear to pick up on the Sustrans (2019) manifesto10. This initiative – which appears to replicate the 15-minute city idea promoted by the C40 cities11 amongst others – serves to connect a number of strands of Scottish Government thinking at the moment: a promotion of active travel; a recognition that travel to work patterns may change as a result of the pandemic; a push to support green and climate friendly objectives (with a move against car oriented developments); a sense of the need to support local communities and place-based initiatives.
The approach has many advocates, such as the one expressed below by the Chair of the Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG)12:
“The plan for city and town centre transformations, based on the ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ points to a healthier, more climate-friendly way of living and a welcome shift from business as usual. Many of us have come to appreciate our local shops and green spaces during the lock-down and are eager to build resilient communities where all our needs can be met within a 20 minute walk.”Elizabeth Leighton, Secretariat, Climate Emergency Response Group, Agenda: Time to press on and drive a vibrant green recovery, The Herald, 3 September 2020
Indeed, the 20-minute neighbourhood features in the CERG’s recent note – Eight policy packages for Scotland’s Green Recovery.13
But what needs to be considered in making this push for more distinct, locally sufficient enclaves?
First, does the existing economic base and sectoral make up of the city-region support such a shift in urban use and interaction? Certainly some small businesses may benefit from an urban infrastructure that supports localised consumer catchments; for others, the business logic may be somewhat at odds with this (where wider worker and/or consumer catchments are needed). There is an interesting debate at the moment about consumer expenditure – showing, since the re-opening of businesses, higher spending spikes in suburban and peripheral parts of an urban economy vis-à-vis city centres14 – and what this might suggest for the future of the urban system. Should these patterns be sustained, the 20-minute neighbourhood holds appeal.
Second, how would the 20-minute city layer on the existing urban form for the city-region? Though we would need to do some mapping to assess existing employment concentrations and movement times etc, the city-region does not seem overly polynucleated as it stands (in other words, the city centre appears dominant in terms of employment numbers). A city-region based on 20-minute neighbourhoods may require employment numbers in Bearsden and Barrhead, for example, to sharply rise, though, of course, changing patterns of commuting and working from home will be a key influence (and the Programme for Government clearly acknowledges this (pg35)). In this sense, the 20-minute city has intuitive appeal – if people are around home more, and if this persists, providing services and infrastructure to support this will be needed.
Third, how will the 20-minute city emerge for affluent versus deprived neighbourhoods? The nature of the public services provided reflects one consideration, the manner in which firms and workers respond is perhaps another. Again, we would need to dive into the data to accurately determine how this might work, and we may learn from initial pilots taking place elsewhere, but a plausible conjecture may be that for affluent areas – where consumer demand can support small shops, for example – the fit with the 20-minute concept may be somewhat more seamless.
In other words, the outcomes that the 20-minute neighbourhood are trying to achieve are worthy and will have wide appeal, moreover, many will positively identify with an urban form that is cleaner and greener, and less car-dependent. The challenge comes in delivering the infrastructure to support it, and seeing how and if residents and firms positively respond to it.
How the 20-minute neighbourhood comes into existence will rest, presumably, on:
- The infrastructure investment plan that the Programme for Government points to (pg36), and which will be shaped in response to the recent Infrastructure Commission reports (where “place” was given particular attention)
- The funding provided in the PfG for active travel and bus services
- The PfG’s provision for the Green Jobs Fund (pg8)
- The ongoing Strategic Transport Projects Review (by Transport Scotland)15
- The nature, manner and funding quantums linked to the GCR’s CWB initiative (also announced in the Programme for Government).
Existing policy tools in Scotland, such as the Place Standard16, may provide a useful basis for policy design and implementation for the 20-minute city. Furthermore, with “place” emphasised in the Infrastructure Commission reports, guidelines may usefully be established in strategic planning and national planning documents/tools.
The existing academic literature on compact17 cities18 plus the existing approaches being tested in Paris19 and Milan20 may be usefully tracked in developing this new policy emphasis.
What is missing?
The idea of Green City Deals was expressly noted in the 2019-20 Programme for Government 21, but does not appear in the latest iteration. Whether this focus is now covered by other funding commitments, or in a revised infrastructure investment plan, for example, remains to be seen. More broadly, there is little evidence in the Programme for Government to suggest that the “pivot to a more regionally focused model”, as argued for in the Higgins report22, has been embraced (though this may emerge in future outputs).
- Scottish Government news, Building the next generation of start-ups, 1 September 2020
- Insider.co.uk, Network of technology hubs to create 300 high-quality start-ups over the next five years, 2 September 2020
- Fraser of Allander Institute, Blue Sky (scanner) thinking…. 27 August 2020
- Kevin John Morgan, (2013), Path dependence and the state: the politics of novelty in old industrial regions. Published in Cooke, P. ed. Re-framing Regional Development: Evolution, Innovation and Transition, Regions and Cities, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 318-340
- Robert Huggins, David Waite & Max Munday, (2018), New directions in regional innovation policy: a network model for generating entrepreneurship and economic development, Regional Studies, 52:9, pp 1294-1304
- Michaela Trippl, Markus Grillitsch, Arne Isaksen. Exogenous sources of regional industrial change: Attraction and absorption of non-local knowledge for new path development. Progress in Human Geography, 42 (5), pp 687-705
- Gian Volpicelli, Wired, How London’s Silicon Roundabout dream turned into a nightmare, 27 July 2020
- Michael Storper, Why Does a City Grow? Specialisation, Human Capital or Institutions?, Urban Studies, 47 (10), 18 May 2010
- Scotttish Government, Building the next generation of start-ups, 1 September 2020
- Sustrans, Why we are calling for 20-minute neighbourhoods in our General Election 2019 manifesto, 12 November 2019
- The C40 Knowledge Hub, How to build back better with a 15-minute city, 2020
- Elizabeth Leighton, The Herald, Agenda: Time to press on and drive a vibrant green recovery, 3 September 2020
- Climate Emergency Response Group, Changeworks, Eight policy packages for Scotland’s Green Recovery, July 2020
- Joanna Partridge, The Guardian, Suburbs lead London’s economic recovery while city centre struggles, 19 August 2020
- Transport Scotland, Strategic Transport Projects Review 2
- Place Standard
- Anna Ibraevaa, Gonçalo Homem de Almeida Correia, Cecília Silva, António Pais Antunes, Transit-oriented development: A review of research achievements and challenges, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Vol. 32, pp110-130, February 2020
- Elizabeth Burton, The Compact City: Just or Just Compact? A Preliminary Analysis, Urban Studies, 37:11, 1 October 2000
- Feargus O’Sullivan, Bloomberg CityLab, Paris Mayor: It’s Time for a ’15-Minute City’, 18 February 2020
- The C40 Knowledge Hub, C40 Mayors’ Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery, 2020
- Scottish Government, Protecting Scotland’s Future: the Government’s Programme for Scotland 2019-2020, Introduction, 3 September 2019
- Scottish Government, Towards a Robust, Resilient Wellbeing Economy for Scotland: Report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, 22 June 2020
This note – which summarises the implications of the Programme for Government for the Glasgow City Region – reflects the view of the author only (who provides research support to the Glasgow Commission on Economic Growth); not the Glasgow Commission on Economic Growth as a whole, nor individual Commissioners.
To cite this article: Waite, David, Thoughts on the Programme for Government – Glasgow City-region implications, Policy Scotland, 10 September 2020, https://policyscotland.gla.ac.uk/thoughts-on-the-programme-for-government-glasgow-city-region-implications
Written content is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence.