Andrew Burns

As chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance, I am delighted at today’s announcement detailing the ground-breaking £24million programme of Smart Cities projects which are set to transform the country’s seven cities. This significant investment in projects aimed at improving the use of data and digital technologies to make services from street lighting to waste collection to healthcare provision more efficient, more cost effective and more environmentally friendly will improve the quality of life of our citizens, stimulate new business and services and ensure the resilience and sustainability of our cities.

The Scottish Cities Alliance is the collaboration of Scotland’s seven cities and the Scottish Government working together to promote the country’s great economic potential around the world. The partnership is committed to attracting investment and exploring opportunities for the adoption of new technologies that will continue to progress our Smart Cities Scotland programme, so that we remain globally competitive to high-tech businesses and talent with an ambition to becoming a partnership of world-leading cities in smart technology by 2020. By working together Scotland’s cities are utilising economies of scale to learn individually and share that knowledge collectively, to be at the cutting edge of Smart City technology and the benefits that brings.

Collaboration is the key to the alliance’s achievements and the cities are now reaping the rewards of this joint-working approach. That collaborative spirit has also helped sharing knowledge of City Deals across the alliance partners. These deals are key to our cities’ ongoing economic success and will help to accelerate this growth via millions of pounds worth of Scottish Government, UK Government and private investment into infrastructure, innovation and skills.

In addition, cities are working together to create infrastructure projects of scale to attract international investment and several collaborations are underway including potential hotel developments in Inverness, Perth and Stirling. As a new departure the alliance has recently published a Private Rented Sector brochure in partnership with Homes for Scotland, which details the market opportunity for the Private Rented Sector and the supporting role of the alliance for the further development of build to rent homes. This will help address some of the pressures cities face in terms of affordable housing shortages.

Working together, the eight partners of the alliance have also put together a pitch book to exploit the great economic potential internationally which outlines £7.5billion of investment sites across our seven cities (www.scottishcities.or/pitchbook). The alliance is working collaboratively to promote projects around the world, such as Aberdeen’s £1bn capital programme, Dundee’s £1bn Waterfront project, Edinburgh’s BioQuarter, Glasgow’s Clyde Waterfront, Inverness Campus, Perth’s booming food and drink industry and Stirling’s rapidly emerging digital-tech sector.

Last year saw the first investment success from the alliance’s pitch book – the £30million Mill Quarter project in the centre of Perth, with Dundee waterfront investments taking this total to £80million, with several more in the pipeline. Let’s not forget infrastructure and our work on hydrogen transport. It’s ambitious, bold and we are ahead of the game as we work towards securing one of the largest hydrogen fuel cell bus projects in Europe.

As chair, I am naturally proud of what we have achieved and optimistic about what we collectively can accomplish in the future. By working together, the cities are utilising economies of scale and learning from each other, making such work more economically viable.

We believe these projects will help make the cities become some of the most desirable places to live and work and the most sustainable locations in the world.

Collaboration works and the alliance is committed to building on the successes that it has achieved to date. We’ve brought more than £100million into the Scottish economy, with the promise of much more to come as the hard work behind the scenes of the many strands of the alliance comes to fruition. I look forward to being part of that continued economic success and benefits it will offer all our communities in terms of employment and quality of life. Let the smart revolution begin.

Councillor Andrew Burns is chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance and leader of Edinburgh City Council