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Putting our City Centre at the Heart of Economic Transformation


Edinburgh will play a central role in Scotland’s economic growth post-Covid, according to a report by Scotland’s City Centre Recovery Task Force.

Established in 2021 by the Scottish Government and the country’s seven cities, the Task Force has published actions to support city centre recovery from the effects of the pandemic, working through the existing successful partnership of the Scottish Cities Alliance.

Responding to the report, Council Leader Adam McVey said:

“Over the last 12 months, thanks to positive collaboration between the Scottish Government, our Council and partners within the Scottish Cities Alliance, this report sets out a clear plan for keeping our city centres thriving post-pandemic.

“The last couple of years have been challenging for the hospitality industry in the Capital and we’ve done a lot of work to support people back into our city centre, both through our Forever Edinburgh campaigns and financial grants to businesses hard hit by restrictions.

“We’re now looking longer term and a lot of the priorities identified by the report will build on the momentum of projects we’ve already set in motion here in Edinburgh. Together with £1.6m funding from the City Centre Recovery fund to help us put the Taskforce’s report into action, this work will help our local – and national – economy to grow.

“For instance, we’re enhancing our historical city centre so that it is safe and welcoming for pedestrians. Initiatives like our City Centre Transformation plan will see us improve access to George Street and other parts of the New Town by foot. We’ve updated planning policies to encourage mixed use developments in our city centre, allowing new projects to take advantage of world-renowned views over Princes Street Gardens to the Castle. And we are continuing to work with key partners Essential Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce to play a ‘match maker’ role with landlords to identify tenants for temporarily vacant units.

“We want to activate more properties and create new venues, providing an ever more cosmopolitan offering for residents and visitors outwith retail hours and bring back live, shared experiences which we’ve all missed.”

Depute Leader Cammy Day added:

“Edinburgh has long been a fantastic place to live, work, visit and invest. But after the challenges of the last two years, we need to make sure we continue to offer one of the most enviable and enjoyable visitor experiences in the world.

“In order to do that, we need to adapt our city centre to suit changing needs. Our vision is to see Edinburgh as a world-leading smart city, using new technology as an enabler to ensure shared prosperity, and opening up access to new technologies which benefit all.

“We must also come together to work towards becoming Net Zero by 2030. Our plans for low emission zones will be part of that and will ensure Edinburgh’s city centre recovery meets the needs of residents, businesses, and visitors.

“Edinburgh has long been a driving force of the country’s economy, and this is an exciting piece of work to make sure we hold on to that position as we rebuild and recover. Already we’re seeing footfall return to pre-pandemic levels and I’m confident all of the steps we’re taking to keep Edinburgh in front will see the city centre’s success grow, acting as a catalyst for economic growth for the whole nation.

“Our retailers, restaurants and experiences are doing an incredible job of making our streets feel more like our city centre should. With the return of our world-renowned festivals, we’re set to welcome more visitors this year which will re-energise our city centre and I would encourage all our residents to get involved as well and play their part by experiencing everything the city centre has to offer.”

Findings from the report, titled ‘At the Heart of Economic Transformation: Report of the City Centre Recovery Taskforce 2021-22’ include:

  • Almost two-thirds of private sector R&D expenditure takes place in the local authorities containing Scotland’s cities, and is overwhelmingly spent in the City of Edinburgh
  • Around two thirds of international visitors to Scotland in 2019 visited Edinburgh (Lothians), while almost 25% visited (Greater) Glasgow
  • Data from Centre for Cities estimates 67% of spend in Edinburgh’s city centre came from outside the city before the pandemic; compared to 57% for Glasgow, 53% for Dundee, and 48% for Aberdeen
  • Across Scotland’s city centres, footfall fell 70-90% below the pre-lockdown baseline during the 2020 and 2021 restrictions, with the largest cities (Glasgow and Edinburgh) being hardest hit
  • Since summer 2021, there has been a progressive recovery and in early 2022 overall footfall activity is roughly back to pre-pandemic levels

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