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£80m in targeted investment, tax reliefs and other incentives to come as the North-East of Scotland is awarded Investment Zone status

By bellmannews / July 1, 2023

From Aberdeenshire Council communications team

The North-East of Scotland has been selected as one of two Scottish Investment Zones to boost the economy, stimulate business growth and create high-quality, well-paid jobs.

Alongside the Glasgow City Region, the North-East zone will be supported by up to £80m in targeted investment, tax reliefs and other incentives over five years following a joint selection process by the Scottish and UK governments.

The exciting news comes as Aberdeenshire Council approved its draft Regional Economic Strategy 2035 as the strategic framework for economic growth in the North East of Scotland.

At a meeting of the Full Council on Thursday (June 29), councillors heard that the new strategy sets out a vision that by 2035, the local economy will lead in the production of green energy solutions and the production of new renewable energy and will be diversifying through growth in our digital, food and drink, tourism, life sciences and creative sectors.

Its long-term plan of investment for North East Scotland will transform its economy over the next decade and beyond, providing a clear statement of the ambition for the North East economy and direction to partners, stakeholders, business and communities to enable investment that will support economic growth, retain and attract people to live, work and invest here.

The draft RES was approved by Aberdeen City Council in May and was further endorsed by the board of Opportunity North East (ONE) earlier this month.

One of the key priorities will now be for the region to have clear governance arrangements in place to manage and monitor the design and delivery of the Investment Zone proposal.

Aberdeenshire Council Leader Cllr Gillian Owen said: “I very much welcome these plans for the creation of an Investment Zone in the north-east of Scotland which will help pave the way for us to seek out exciting new opportunities for our wide and varied business sectors which we would not otherwise have benefited from.

“There is absolutely no doubt that Aberdeenshire has tremendous scope for further growth and the incentives such an Investment Zone bring will help further raise the aspirations of the region, create more jobs and increase the prosperity of City and Shire alike.”

Depute Leader Cllr Anne Stirling added: “This is a massive opportunity for the north-east of Scotland and it will open up the region to new business and investment. Securing such an Investment Zone ensures a significant economic boost to the region and will enable businesses to benefit from a variety of incentives.

“We fully appreciate the need to have clear governance arrangements in place to manage and monitor the design and delivery of Investment Zone proposals and we very much look forward to working closely with our colleagues at Aberdeen City Council and with the government and local partners to help turn these plans into a reality for our region.”

Scottish ministers have tailored the UK Government’s Investment Zone model to ensure it aligns with the National Strategy for Economic Transformation and supports innovation in sectors such as net zero, digital and life sciences.

There will be a strong emphasis on fair work, mirroring the arrangements for Green Freeports.

The initiative is to be delivered by each area’s Regional Economic Partnership – comprising Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, Opportunity North East and other partners – which will propose which sectors should be the focus of support, taking into account regional strengths and activity within Higher and Further Education institutions. Regional leaders, businesses and universities will take the lead in shaping and developing specific plans.

In terms of the wider Regional Economic Strategy 2035, for Aberdeenshire Council it reflects the strategic priorities within its Council Plan, Local Development Plan, Local Outcome Improvement Plan and its Road Map to Net Zero. At the regional level it aligns to the work of NESTRANs and the Regional Transport Strategy and the regional Tourism Destination Strategy.

During discussion, councillors heard that it is essential that the new strategy acts as a framework for future discussions and negotiations with the two governments in relation to securing investment to support the North East of Scotland’s contribution to the wider economy.

It will therefore reflect the changing policy focus of the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) and the UK Government’s Levelling Up Bill,

and the corresponding funding to support these overall objectives.

The strategy will also focus on the principles of Community Wealth Building and the Wellbeing Economy pillars of environment, people, business and community in anticipation of the introduction of a corresponding Scottish Government Bill, and that the economy is inclusive – for local communities.

Cllr Owen said: “This is a bold vision, ambitious and achievable. The strategy is the next chapter in setting out a sustainable economy, area and future as we deliberately and carefully transition from one form of energy – oil and gas – to another – renewable energy. This plan of strategic transition is vital not only for the environment but for our economy, our skills and our jobs. The new strategy provides a framework for the future discussions and negotiations with both the UK and Scottish governments and I look forward to engaging in these.”

Cllr Stirling added: “The Regional Economic Strategy reflects the changing policy focus of the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for economic transformation the UK Government’s Levelling Up Bill. This is evident through the strategy’s focus on community wealth-building and wellbeing economy pillars of environment, people, business and community.  I would like to thank our Head of Planning and Economy Paul Macari and his economic development team for their diligence and commitment to ensuring that Aberdeenshire is well represented within this new strategy.”