THE SCOTTISH Government must appoint a dedicated cities minister and overhaul lobbying organisation the Scottish Cities Alliance in order for the country to realise the economic benefits of the ‘century of the city’, an expert on urbanism has said.

Glasgow School of Art professor Brian Evans, who co-authored Scotland’s Urban AGE - a report that examines the future of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh - said that because for the first time more people are living in cities than in rural areas a cities minister is required to drive “targeted policy making” and ensure it is “dovetailed with wider rural strategies for maximum economic benefit”.

“Scotland deserves a minister for cities,” Professor Evans said. “We should have someone with ministerial responsibility who knocks heads together and deals with what is otherwise a potential for things falling between gaps.

“That’s not to supplant the cities – they deserve to be trusted and given the opportunity to determine their own futures.

“But I don’t think across the country we are organising the cohesion as well as we need to to realise the paradigm shift from industrial city to knowledge city.

“The Scottish Government should establish a minister for cities to coordinate investment and drive forward a knowledge-based urban renaissance in Scotland.”

Despite this, a spokesman for the Scottish Government pointed out that cities and city deals, which give local areas specific powers to help drive economic growth, already come under the remit of transport minister Michael Matheson, who was appointed to the role in June.

“Already in that time the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, with £300m Scottish Government investment, has been signed – with data-driven innovation central to its success,” the spokesman said.

“This adds to the Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen City Region deals already signed, with Stirling’s heads of terms agreed in May, bringing the Scottish Government’s total investment to £1.125 billion over the next 10 to 20 years.

“With the Tay Cities Region deal in the pipeline, we are tirelessly working to place our cities at the heart of an internationally recognised vibrant, inclusive, open and outward-looking digital nation.”

However, Professor Evans said the current approach is too fragmented while government-backed bodies like the Scottish Cities Alliance, which was established to drive collaboration between Scotland’s seven cities, do not factor in the contribution that could be made from urban areas that do not have city status.

“[The Scottish Cities Alliance] is underpowered and ill conceived,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with having it, but it does not represent urban Scotland.

“It’s profoundly ridiculous that settlements like Paisley and Falkirk-Grangemouth are excluded from it. I’m not against us having a cities alliance but we do need to understand the urban landscape in Scotland and have more people at the table.”

While Professor Evans said the Scottish Cities Alliance should be “fortified, reconfigured or done away with”, a spokesman for the organisation said it was delivering on its aim of achieving “an economically stronger future for Scotland”, having helped bring in £125m of investment for Scotland’s cities and city regions since being founded in 2011.

“Yesterday we launched our biggest investment prospectus to date at V&A Dundee and this will be used to promote the cities’ offerings to a global audience,” the spokesman added.

Professor Evans made his remarks at a seminar held by law firm Burness Paull, which commissioned the research to examine the roles that Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh - which collectively account for 70% of Scotland’s population and have 82.5% of its knowledge-intensive jobs – will play in securing the country’s economic success.

The firm’s head of planning Elaine Farquharson Black said that as everything from an ageing population and low fertility rates to economic migration and digital connectivity had resulted in “an irreversible change in the balance of population” it is important to examine whether “our cities can cope with this decisive switch from rural to urban living”.