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Economic boost must be exploited

The timing of news that Glasgow is to have a £500m boost from the Treasury is nakedly political, coming just two months before the independence referendum.

Indeed, the Prime Minister made no attempt to pretend it was anything else.

As the Scottish Government points out, it will not come all at once, but translates into something like £15m a year for the first five years. Scottish ministers were also understandably keen to point out that Glasgow already receives substantial capital investment from Holyrood. Spending on the Commonwealth Games, new Southern General hospital, Fastlink and the Glasgow Subway improvements comes to £1.5 billion.

But that does not make the money any less welcome. It has transformative possibilities, especially with the Scottish Government accepting Mr Cameron's call to match the funding and local authorities in the Clyde Valley swelling the pot further, to create an overall fund worth £1.13bn. It now falls on the councils concerned to work together constructively and spend the money wisely.

The Government claims that, properly invested, the funding will create 28,000 jobs over 20 years. Even if that forecast turns out to be overblown, the potential of such a large cash injection to create jobs and boost the economy is clear. But to get the best from it, the local authorities must be willing to set aside any differences in order to pursue a shared vision. Four years ago, Sir John Arbuthnott proposed a radical plan for joint initiatives involving eight councils in the west of Scotland but progress on that front has been very disappointing. Meanwhile, seven mainly Labour-dominated councils including Glasgow have threatened to walk out of the local authority umbrella group Cosla, creating tension with Labour colleagues from other councils, including neighbouring west of Scotland authorities. The Clyde Valley councils really must rise above such disputes if they are to make the best of this opportunity.

The UK's great cities need an economic boost to compete with the ever-creeping metropolis of London, Alex Salmond's "dark star" that is sucking the life blood out of regional UK economies. The City Deal and the HS2 rail link are both a partial response to such concerns, as is the Labour leader Ed Miliband's recent pledge that his government would devolve £30bn of spending to the English regions. The importance of cities as both political and economic counterweights to London is a matter of renewed interest, at a time when the Scottish independence debate has revived talk of federalism within the UK's nations and regions.

It is right that Glasgow with its huge areas of deprivation should benefit from this fund, though other cities that face similar challenges on a smaller scale, like Dundee and Edinburgh, will be left wondering when their turn will come. The money has the potential to make a major difference for the better. It is now up to the councils concerned to make good use of it.

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Local government

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