MOVES to ensure the Clyde plays a key role in Scotland ’s future economic success was unveiled at a conference in Glasgow yesterday, where political leaders and academics urged companies, universities and agencies to collaborate more to create jobs, drive growth and overcome the threat posed by Brexit.

The “Clyde mission”, revealed by economy secretary Derek Mackay at the State of the City Economy Conference, seeks to boost the river’s traditional strengths in shipping, shipbuilding and marine engineering, while aiming to help new sectors flourish and breathe life into derelict land alongside the waterway. It will also aim to attract fresh investment, building on major projects coming to fruition on the back of the £500 million Glasgow City Region Deal.

Climate change will be at the heart of the strategy, said Mr Mackay, who pledged measures to protect the Clyde “corridor” from flooding, and to ensure the river can be used more by residents and visitors.

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He highlighted the Queens Quay regeneration project on the site of the former John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, which plans to use water drawn from the river to heat homes, and moves by Glasgow-based Malin Group to revive marine engineering on the riverside in Old Kilpatrick.

The minister emphasised that tackling inequality would be part of the drive.

Around 115,000 people live within 500 metres on either side of river, with 30,000 firms supporting 160,000 jobs in the area. But he added: “One in four of the population who live in those areas are within the 15% most deprived in Scotland.

“When we are looking at the Clyde strategy, inclusive growth is so important.”

There are 250 sites of vacant and derelict land, spanning 400 hectares, which ministers hope to capitalise on. Mr Mackay said preparing those areas for the effects of climate change, including defences against flooding, must be part of the strategy.

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The blueprint comes shortly after the Scottish Government was forced to intervene to nationalise the Ferguson yard in Port Glasgow, following a bitter dispute between industrialist Jim McColl of former owner Clyde Blowers Capital, and Caledonian Maritime Assets, over an order for two ferries.

The conference was opened by Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, who said the city must strive to ensure a “just transition” for citizens as it bids to become carbon neutral by 2030. Declaring that climate change, sustainability and carbon reduction are the “issues of our time”, Ms Aitken said: “We need to replace our old industries before they become obsolete.

“We’ve been here before with the fall-out from the decline of our heavy industries. But… this time we know what’s coming. And if we are to avoid the disastrous social impacts of past experience and ensure a just transition to a de-carbonised society, it must be planned for.”

While talking up the city’s achievements, including its high levels of academic attainment and graduate retention levels, Ms Aitken acknowledged the impact of continuing austerity and Brexit uncertainty.

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Stating that “absolutely nothing has happened to allay my fears about the impact of Brexit”, she stressed the need for Glasgow to continue building relationships within Europe and beyond.

The conference heard from two of the city’s top academics, professors Anton Muscatelli of the University of Glasgow and Jim McDonald of the University of Strathclyde.

They highlighted the international credentials of the city’s universities and colleges, and the milestone of creating innovation districts.

But they stressed the need for more collaboration between firms, academia and government agencies.

Professor Muscatelli said: “There remains scope for greater collaboration, both within and between sectors, and indeed across this whole city, to refine our strategic thinking about how the sometimes disparate elements of the city economy can be connected more effectively.”

Professor McDonald held out hope for a more “enlightened” approach to immigration to ensure that those who come to Scotland to study can stay and join the workforce after graduating.